Happy New Year! Greetings from the Arctic Circle! Well, not really, but it sure feels like it. Yesterday, we had a wild storm that left us with nearly a foot of freshly fallen snow and winds that blew the snow into even higher drifts. Today the sun came out, so everything is beautifully sparkly, but the temperatures are dropping rapidly and tomorrow, we’ll be living with a single digit high and a negative double digit low, not counting the expected wind chill factor. Brrrr!
Cold weather doesn’t keep me inside because the dog must go out. She has a natural fur coat, though the snow piled in her favorite spots and our paths to safe walkways frustrate her.
Inside, it’s comfort food weather. We’ve been eating lots of root vegetables, soup, stew, and bread, stick to your ribs fare. Duck-fat potatoes fits right into that line-up.
This hearty side dish couldn’t be easier. First, diced potatoes are parboiled to hasten the cooking. I didn’t bother to peel them. Then, the potatoes are cooked in a few tablespoons of duck fat. The duck fat I had leftover from the Counterfeit Duck Confit was gorgeous, clear, and golden. The potatoes browned beautifully. Salt them halfway through and stir in a few cloves of minced garlic at the end. Delicious! I also tried them with leftover turkey fat from Thanksgiving. Both the duck and turkey fat add a depth that olive oil just does not.
The potatoes require a little attention, some stirring so they don’t stick to the pan and burn. But your undivided attention is not required, so you can prepare the rest of dinner while the potatoes cook. Roasted chicken parts are a simple accompaniment, or some more counterfeit duck confit.
If you’re on the East Coast, stay warm this weekend. Don’t go out if you don’t have to. While you’re home you might as well bake some cookies and perhaps make a batch of duck-fat potatoes!
I might have mentioned that in December, I participated in Whole Foods “12 Days of Cheese”. Each day, a different cheese was on sale for 50% of its regular price. If you tried all 12 cheeses, the prize was… a cheese platter! For someone who loves cheese as much as I do, how could I not do it? It also required a daily trip to Whole Foods, but I also happen to love grocery shopping, so that wasn’t a hardship.
There were some delicious cheeses available. Some were old favorites (Humboldt Fog, Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche, Epoisses), and now I’ve met some new ones (Truffle Gouda). The only problem was the timing. The cheese platter had to be redeemed before New Year’s Day, when the refrigerator still had blocks of several of the daily selections I purchased uneaten. And the cheeses on the cheese platter were rather pedestrian, not nearly as interesting as the flight of 12 days offered. Regardless, it was a fun food adventure even if I don’t need to eat quite so much cheese…
This time of year, I’m barely going to the grocery store. Between the many local farmers’ markets, farm stands, my CSA share, and my own backyard, we are well-fed. This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays fit right into this food procurement system. Except for feta cheese, all the ingredients for the Potato, Feta and Basil Tortilla were already on-hand: potatoes from Dick’s Market Garden, scallions and eggs from Wilson Farm, and basil from my own garden.
In this case, the tortilla is not a Mexican corn pancake, but a Basque version of a frittata. You start out sautéing diced potatoes in a generous amount of olive oil. (The recipe said to peel the potatoes but I didn’t bother.) When the potatoes are almost tender, sliced scallions are stirred in to wilt.
Pour a mixture of eggs, some piment d’Espelette, and loads of coarsely chopped basil on top and sprinkle crumbled feta on top. The tortilla cooks stovetop until it is almost set and a golden-brown crust forms on the bottom and sides. The cooking finishes up for a few minutes in a hot oven.
I originally bought my cast-iron skillet specifically for making frittatas. I’ve seasoned it, but every time I made one, it stuck. Over the years, I’d shifted to making frittatas entirely in the oven in a baking pan. When I read this recipe and saw that the tortilla was cooked on the stove in cast-iron, I was nervous that I’d have the same experience. I was pleasantly surprised as I watched the crust easily separated from the pan when I checked its progress. When I transferred the tortilla to a serving plate, I smiled as it gently plopped out. It worked! I could assume that after all this time, my pan is better seasoned, but I’m giving credit to the healthy amount of olive oil added at the start.
The tortilla was delicious for dinner as well as for lunch. A side of sliced vegetables drizzled with olive oil or a panzanella were welcome accompaniments.
I’d make this again, though I thought the amount of basil was overwhelming. I would prefer just a handful of basil for flavor supplemented with other sautéed greens to provide both substance and color.
My main takeaway lesson from this recipe is that the cast-iron skillet can be restored to its intended purpose in frittata making. I’ll just have to remember to be heavy-handed with the oil when sautéing the vegetables.