Monday, October 24, 2011

An Irish Hungarian and four-potato creamed potatoes

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Dear readership, your humble hostess hereby announces her forthcoming book, The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts, (Red Giant, December 2011). Your humble hostess could think of no better way to celebrate this blessed event than by posting a recipe, so here: enjoy a steaming bowl of creamed potatoes.

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Get four goddamn potatoes.

Regular size, maybe a little bigger than regular. No, I have no idea how big regular is, maybe about the size of your fist. Use red potatoes for chrissake. That's your best potato. Yes, I know the price has gone through the roof. No, I don't want to hear about it.

Peel your potatoes and cube 'em into about 1/2" pieces.

This is where the beauty blooms: For one thousand years, I was making a version of this recipe with about seventeen pounds of potatoes in my huge industrial-size pan. I was grating cheese. I was slicing those spuds with surgical precision. I was layering and measuring. I was dotting with butter and sprinkling with flour.

I'd fool around making all those spuds For. Eh. Ver. in order to have a mountain of leftovers we'd be eating For. Eh. Ver.

It sucked.

You're not doing any of that. You're going to put those potatoes in a casserole, which will probably not be nearly as cool as the enameled cast iron  Descoware "Autumn Leaves" one-and-a-half-quart casserole that belonged to my Gram Soos and that you're beholding in these here pictures.

You know what? You use an old-school Anchor-Hocking covered dish glass casserole that was made in Lancaster, Ohio, and not only I will respect the hell out of that, I'll confess that I've been known to make those god-awful boxed scalloped potatoes in my own one-and-a-half-quart Anchor-Hocking casserole that I've had since time began. Yes, I would make my four-potato creamed potatoes in the Anchor-Hocking. No, I wouldn't make god-awful boxed scalloped potatoes in my Descoware.

Are you people following me?

You can add the following ingredients in any order. No one cares.

Salt,* about two tablespoons Parmesan (dry, straight from the green plastic shaker), about two-and-a-half tablespoons flour, two tablespoons butter, and a few shakes of dry parsley.

Yes, that is Penzey's parsley in a shaker that originally housed shitty discount grocery parsley. This, people, is called re-purposing and it makes me modern. It makes me enlightened. It makes me youthful. Kiss my ass.

*Yes, per the photo I use Lawry's seasoned salt. The sad fact is I use it all the time. Lawry's is my go-to seasoning. I use it in soups and stews. I sprinkle it on a chicken before roasting. I throw a few shakes into my marinades. There. Now you know.

I have no idea how much Lawry's I use in four-potato creamed potatoes. What? Maybe a half teaspoon to start? You want exact science, call Bill Nye.

Stir everything up and add some milk, enough so it starts to pool up. I don't know how much, which is why you get this picture.

Give it a stir and put it into the oven, 350 degrees, uncovered.

Check those spuds every 15 minutes. Give them a stir each time. You might need another shake of salt. Start checking for doneness* at at about the 40 or 45 minute mark.

*Doneness is doneness. It depends on the spud's moisture and starch content. It depends on how old those spuds are and how big your cubes are. All of this is part of the advanced class, but don't worry about it. Just take a cube out of there and test/taste it yourself for chrissake. These can take up to an hour to cook

You might need to add a bit more milk if it gets too thick. GO EASY. You can always add more milk but you can't take it out of there (not that I know from personal experience or anything like that about putting too much milk in and trying to correct the situation by using a shallow spoon to scoop some out from between the spud cubes to no avail and negating the "creamed" assertion all together but serving them anyway).

These glorious creamed potatoes will rock your face off. They are superfine on their own or next to a grilled steak or pork chop or barbecued chicken.

If a serving of spuds survives the meal, you can be sure your Goat will spy them in the fridge the next day and offer to "Eat down the leftovers," like he's doing you some sort of selfless favor when in fact he's thrilling over the prospect of those day-old spuds.

Okay, so maybe for him, you start with five potatoes.

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Ms Amanda said...

I love your recipes! Ver yexcited for you & the whole book deal! Woo hoo!

Ms Amanda said...

Or ' very excited' if you prefer...

Tony Rugare said...

Congratulations! At last, an honest recipe.

rraine said...

i've been hankering for a potato something ever since it started to finally cool off here. thanks for this! i'm already hungry.
and, congrats on the book! available where?

Bill said...

Way to go Erin! How can I not want to buy and read this?

"creative nonfiction, humor, memoir, food, cooking, narrative nonfiction, food memoir, essay.
A misfit Irish-but-not-Catholic girl from Cleveland's west side, O'Brien is funny and sophisticated, projecting triumph through the lens of the domicile without blinking when sorrow fills the screen. The right measure of quirk and earthy sex separate this
A book that proves the Rust Belt is the perfect backdrop for a whirlwind romance, that shopping at the discount grocery is really performance art, and that a half-acre lot is all you need to accommodate a field of dreams--Coming December 2011
Publisher Red Giant Books"

alphadog said...

Well done Erin.
Despite our political differences you know that you always have my full support in all things O'Brien.

Anonymous said...

Fuckin' A!


DogsDontPurr said...

I CANNOT WAIT to read your book!!!

Major congrats!!

Anonymous said...

Looking ahead...When you appear on "The View" as the next culinary phenom would you please tell Elizabeth Hasselbeck no amount of eating will give her a clue.



Erin O'Brien said...

Dear everyone, thanks for the kudos and well wishes. They mean more to me than you know.

The book should be available on Amazon, both trade paper and Kindle. Red Giant (the publisher) is a small fledgling house here in Cleveland with a lot of heart. I'm honored to be part of their start-up list.


alphadog said...

I believe I will Occupy Barnes and Noble in whatever town I happen to be in when the book is released and demand that they stock it.
I'll put on my Team O'Brien tee shirt and if they give me any guff I'll increase my list of demands to include a reissue of Harvey and Eck.

twinkly sparkles said...

I have nothing to say I am overcome with many levels of joy I'd totally kiss your ass if you would sign my copy when I get one

Lord have mercy you rock


btw, another Ohio pal read your candy-ass post via my blog and she complemented it via FB, you dig? She would probably want a copy of your book, too and so will all of my other friends so I will whore it around on FB GO GO GO ERIN!

Nin Andrews said...

Hurray! Go Erin! I want a signed copy. You know that. I will pay for that signature!

Kirk said...


Al The Retired Army Guy said...

Congratulations, Erin! Great to see you get published again.

Interesting variation on a gratin. What is most interesting to me is that you add the flour and butter, then add the milk. Normally in a gratin you add your potatoes to the dish, then add the milk, and a bit of butter. Usually flour is not an ingredient, but I imagine it goes a long way to thickening the liquid.


Al The Retired Army Guy said...

BTW, for those who may not know (and I'm not insulting anyone's intelligence here ...), Erin's choice of red bliss potatoes for this dish is not by accident. Red Bliss, a type of "waxy" potato has a higher moisture and lower starch content than does, say, an Idaho or Russet potato. It will hold it's shape far better as a result, which is something I should think you'd want in a dish like this. I suppose you could use russets/Idahos, but the texture would be different, not to mention the eventual condition of the potatoes once cooked.

Bottom line: anytime one wants a potato to hold it's shape, use a waxy or "new" potato. If that isn't as important, a higher starch/lower moisture potato such as a Russet is fine.



twinkly sparkles said...

It's so funny, too, because I never even considered that I'm not intelligent.
I am not a great cook like y'all, only a good cook, sometimes only a good-enough cook, but I do love to research all sorts of things about ingredients. I think I like knowing about ingredients more than I like cooking and/or baking.
I would like to read recipes and have Erin cook them for me. I would read out loud in a mellifluous voice. I could play musical selections and dance, too, while you cook.
I would pay for your food, Erin and Al. How about a joint venture restaurant? I mean, I know it would require relocating, but you could come to Western Mass, both of you.
And you could get alpha's duck recipe and make it the special of the week. Yeah. And you could allow me to make my famous coffee drink for folks. For 6 bucks. Yes. And my granola if you eventually open for breakfast. No other breakfast would be offered, only granola. You guys take care of the lunches and dinners. Yes. When can we start?

Al The Retired Army Guy said...

@ Twinkly: Erin does, indeed rock. Me, I'm a Republican. I only rock on occasion .... ;-)

A joint venture between Erin and I ... hmmm ... now that would be very, very interesting (to quote Arte Johnson from Laugh In). The pragmatic, practical Gonzo Irish-Hungarian Housewife meets the Republican, Classically Trained Chef. One thing is for sure ... it won't be Guy Fieri and Sandra Lee/Rachel Ray ... ;-)

I've never cooked with Erin, though I must admit I am very intrigued at the prospect. She - housewife, practical, get the food on the table. Me? Technique, science, know what you're doing and why. It would make the X-Factor look silly. But that's just me.


alphadog said...

If I come to visit you and this new joint venture restaurant, you won't be offended if I take my breakfast at the diner down the road will you?

And Al, thanks for the potato tip. If I think about it I guess I already knew that but having it pointed out and explained makes everything clear. It seems they also hold their flavor better, is that too a condition of moisture/starch content or just my imagination?

twinkly sparkles said...

Okay. I see no problem with the politics--in fact, it would be a beautiful marketing tool. Call the restaurant "Asses and Elephants" or something. But that sort of leaves out the anarchists and libertarians.
The real problem is a. desire and b. location. Who among you really wants to uproot and who really wants to run a restaurant?
Alpha--I'd hate to lose your business, but I was trying to simplify so Erin and Al didn't have to cook/prep for breakfast, too. I can see that granola only would be sort of totalitarian and a real turn-off. But maybe Al could make some bacon and some sausage and I could add a variety of home-made breads. Sweet breads as well as yeasted. Eggs. Who will cook the eggs? I'm horrible, no can do. French toast, yes. And, you've never tried my granola. It's quite amazing. I can't say I've ever met a person who didn't like it.
If it were my restaurant, I would call it "Sit and the Welcome Table." How's that for a marriage of different political views? We all ought to try it.

Erin O'Brien said...

Asses and Elephants?

I love it. No one needs to move, we'll get a food truck!

We'll drive all the hell around, picking up Twinks and Alph and anyone else. When the truck gets too crowded, everyone can follow us. It'll be like a caravan.

It's brilliant, really.

twinkly sparkles said...

"Sit AT the Welcome Table" typo sorry

now my virgin foray into the wv game:

snutat: a boy's first tattoo

Contrary Guy said...

Amazon doesn't seem to like the term 'Hungarian'... keeps removing it from my searches for this book, especially when the term 'Irish' is included. Hmph.

Well keep reminding us that it's coming out; I have several end-of-year release books queued up and will add this one to the list.

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence DG/ I'll be hollerin' loud as soon as it's available for order.

Anonymous said...

2 things:

1."I would like to read recipes and have Erin cook them for me. I would read out loud in a mellifluous voice. I could play musical selections and dance, too, while you cook." TS

You could serve road kill and I'm there.

2. Lest Erin think I (we) are not paying attention...Why is Goat pictured in what appears to me to be a food court at the end of this post?

Bon Appetit.


Al The Retired Army Guy said...

@ Alph: I don't think they hold their flavor all that much better - it may be an individual thing with you. I do find that when using an emulsified sauce (in this case, mayonnaise) waxy potatoes tend to absorb the sauce more than high starch, low moisture potatoes. I'm guessing that since they stay intact (and hence have more surface area) that there is more of a "landing zone" for the sauce than with potatoes that tend to fall apart. Since they absorb more of the sauce, there will be more of that flavor via the sauce available in the potato itself.

@ Twinkly: Eggs are no problem - to order, souffl├ęd, fritattas, quiches, etc. No prob on the bacon either. Sausage is easy - just remember 1/3 oz of kosher salt per pound, and you can make your own sausage in about two minutes (don't forget to add your own favorite spices, e.g., ground sage, fennel seeds, etc.) to the ground pork. Of course, it would take a bit more work (and a sausage stuffer/pastry bag) to make links, but patties can be made in a few minutes.

I'm not sure what I'd call such a place. Here, however, are a few suggestions:

Ungar and TRAG's (Ungar is German for Hungarian)
Left and Right Out
The Twinkly Goat
The Left and Right Diner
Grand Old Pantry (GOP ... get it?)
The Pachyderm and the Mule
The Conservative Liberal
Gonzo Lecho
Lecho, Donkeys and Elephants - Oh My!
Sparkling Granola's (I imagine such a place would go over well in a place, like, uh, Vermont - you know how I feel)

Breakfast prep isn't all that difficult - it depends on the menu, and whether the items are made in house (e.g., sausage, breads/quickbreads, grits, sausage gravy, scrapple, pancakes). One of the places I've worked used a lot of bought in stuff, which, depending on the product was OK, but it wasn't anywhere near the quality of in house made stuff. However, we didn't really have the prep space and/or storage space for all the prepped items, so we had to make (or should I say the owners had to make) compromises.

And yes, why is the Goat in a food court? If it's at the West Side Market, well ... ;-)


ahclem said...

Awesome! (Both the recipe and (especially) the book.) Congratulations.

Al The Retired Army Guy said...

BTW, making smoked tomato soup at the moment. It's good, I'm told. Even if it isn't Irish or Hungarian ... ;-)