Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ultimate Scalloped Potatoes

Potatoes, butter, garlic, cheese, heavy cream... is there ANYTHING better? This is one of those dishes I treat myself to only once in a while. Not only is it a little time consuming (although not TOO bad if you have a halfway decent mandolin), it's also full of fat and calories, which I guess is why it's SOOO good.

Last week I picked up a spiral sliced ham on sale for easter, but ended up making leg of lamb instead. I saved the ham for today and couldn't think of a better side dish to go with it, besides, I already had the fontina and gruyere cheeses in the fridge needing to be used up.

Ultimate Scalloped Potatoes

1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 tbs butter
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup milk
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced into 1/8" thick rounds
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup coarsely grated Fontina cheese
1 Tbs flour
4 green onions chopped (white and green parts, optional)
salt to taste

Saute garlic and shallots in butter in medium saucepan for 1 minute. Add cream, milk and black pepper, heath through but do not boil.

Mix grated cheeses and flour in medium bowl, until cheese is well coated.

Layer half of potatoes in lightly buttered 2 qt shallow casserole dish. Pour half of cream mixture over potatoes, sprinkle with salt, half of the cheeses and half of the chopped green onion. Repeat layers.

Bake in 350º oven 60 to 70 minutes until top is a deep brown and potatoes are tender.

Note: A Mandolin comes in very handy for this type of dish. If you don't have one, you can certainly use a sharp knife, but you can pick up an inexpensive mandolin for around $20 that will do the trick, there's no need to have the fancy $100 versions.

Asparagus Crab Pasta Salad

This is my go to dish for pot lucks and picnics, and I'm constantly being asked for the recipe. The problem is that I don't really have a recipe. However, I promised a friend I would make an attempt to explain how to make it, and to be honest it's VERY easy, so I'm going to give it a shot.

16 oz box tri-color rotini pasta, cooked
1/2 lb imitation crab, chopped (you can use real crab if you prefer)
1 lb asparagus spears, trimmed and steamed til tender-crisp, then chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Old Bay seasoning
onion salt
garlic salt

Mix together mayonnaise and seasonings in a large bowl (use the Old Bay, salts and pepper to taste, but make it slightly stronger than you think it should be as the seasonings will be much milder once the other ingredients are mixed in).

Mix in remaining ingredients and chill at least 1 hour before serving.


There are dozens of versions of empanadas out there, and really, the possibilities are endless as far as what you can put in them. Traditional fillings include picadillo, chicken, potatoes, spinach and even fruit, all depending on the region from which they come. My favorite is the cuban empanada, filled with picadillo. You can normally find the "discos", or empanada wrappers in the frozen section with other latin american foods.

These are also a great budget friendly meal, as the recipe uses many ingredients you probably already have around.

Cuban Empanadas

10 emapanada wrappers, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
Canola oil for frying
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cumin
8 oz tomato sauce
1 Tbs ketchup
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped green olives with pimento

Brown ground beef with onions, peppers and garlic in a large saute pan. Drain. Add remaining ingredients (except oil and wrappers), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened. Remove bay leaf and allow to cool slightly.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a large heavy pot to 350ºF.

Lay one empanada wrapper on a plate or cutting board and place about 2 Tbs of picadillo in the center. Fold the empanada wrapper in half over the filling and press edges tightly closed with times of a fork, turn the empanada over and repeat pressing with fork on the other side. Repeat for remaining wrappers.

Carefully drop one or two empanadas in the hot oil and fry 2-3 minutes, turning once, until golden grown and crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Serve with hot sauce if desired.

Serves 5 (2 empanadas per person)

Note: You can probably do 15-20 empanadas with this amount of ground beef, and depending on appetites in your house you may want to go ahead and make the extras. Just keep in mind that they don't reheat all that well, they tend to get soggy. Leftover picadillo can also be served over rice the next day.