You probably don’t need me to remind you that just a few months of fiscal impoverishment and economic decline have completely wiped out the previous 6 years of prosperity and high profit margins. Some 10 million people are jobless. What once were stable middle income families are now supported by single income stilts. Foreclosures in California are a dime a dozen – literally. That cute $900,000 cul-de-sac won’t even sell at $400,000 now. And as a result, many of us have had to re-adjust our lifestyles. Christmas Shopping this winter should be more accurately rechristened Christmas Window Shopping. Las Vegas and NYC hotels were vacant for New Year’s Eve. Heck, Vogue recently did a spread on the charms of shopping at Walmart and Target. Even big New York socialites and designers are learning to downsize – NYC’s premiere event designer David Monn recently did a dinner party featuring – not lobster tail or abalone, not foie gras or kobe steak, but rather – the humble potato as the grand entrée. A lot of us are learning to adapt to our new economic situation, and it looks like the modest potato is getting a 2009 makeover.
But readers, don’t be so sullen. Don’t let my economic fly-by dampen the mood. I mean, yeah, life can suck right now with pecuniary woes and financial ruts. But like all things, it is darkest before the dawn, and pretty soon, things will start to look up again. And just because it’s not the glory days of the dotcom revolution or the housing boom earlier in the decade, doesn’t mean we can’t eat well. You’d be surprised to find that the potato is surprisingly filling and really easy to cook. A good starchy and versatile spud like the Russett is yummy and amazingly light on the wallet (10 lbs at Costco for a few dollars). If you get bored, a nice red potato is great for roasting in garlic and herbs. Here are a few recipes to keep you warm and satisfied while we all weather out this tough winter together.
Potato and Leek Soup
In particular, Potato Leek Soup is perfect for those cold winter nights, and can be a standalone meal, not just a starter. After reading Emeril’s, Alton’s and Robert’s recipes, I decided to take bits and pieces and warp it to make my own recipe. It is super easy, and you can adjust any of the ingredients to your own tastes. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Throw in some toasted crunchy bread (rustic Italian, crusty baguette, even doughy SF sourdough), and you are all set for some good eats. Recipe serves 4.
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large leek, hairs trimmed off
1 stalk celery, diced 1/4″ wide
2 dried bay leaves
45 oz (3 cans) chicken stock
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper
1 tbs melted butter
2-5 tbs flour
Trim the green portions off the leek and use the 2 largest and longest leaves, make a bouquet garni by folding the 2 leaves around the bay leaves and peppercorns. Tie into a package-shaped bundle with kitchen twine and set aside. Or, if you have cheesecloth, these can all be placed in a cheesecloth.
With the white ends of the leek, halve then quarter, then julienne into 1/4″ thick pieces.
In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and let brown a little before adding chopped celery and leeks. Allow the veggies to sweat and soften up. Once soft, pour in chicken stock, add the bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Add diced potatoes. These should be fairly small pieces as it will cook faster and be easier to mash in the event you don’t have a food processor handy.
Cook at medium-low heat until the potatoes are nice and tender, and the broth is flavorful. Bring down to a simmer. If you don’t have a food processor, use a masher or even a large wooden spoon to carefully press the potatoes against the sides of the pot. If you do own a food processor or emulsion blender (lucky you), hold off on this step until everything is done cooking.
In a separate bowl, combine melted butter and flour to make roux. This will help thicken the soup.
Once the potatoes are cooked, add milk, heavy cream and a tablespoon of the roux. Season with salt to taste. Continue to smash the potatoes until you reach your desired consistency. Whisk in more roux if you find that your soup is not thick enough. I like a thick and chunky soup, so that when it cools, I can eat it like mashed potatoes. But if you like a runny soup for the bread to sop up, go ahead and puree the soup in a food processor or blender. This can be served immediately, or can be served cold. It’s just as amazing cold. Enjoy!
Need other ideas for potato recipes? I’ll put up more as I go, such as Hacienda Fries à la Rockridge Cafe or my mom’s Stir-fry Beef over a bed of Watercress and Potatoes – to die for! Until then, here are a few external links that may tickle your palate:
Scalloped Potatoes with Fresh Herbs
Greecian Potato Salad
Mushroom Potato Gratin
Mini Baked Potatoes with Mascarpone and Prosciutto Bits
Twice Baked Potato
Broccoli and Cheddar Stuffed Potato Skins
Double Stuffed Potatoes
So I hope these comforting potato dishes will help cheer up your economic blues.
I’m gonna smile cause I deserve to
It’ll all get better in time