Potatoes Anna turned Potatoes Dana

The pizzazz of the potato.  The fluffy filling, the creamy texture, the crispy crust, the endless uses. Oh, my love affair with this starchy spud is deep.

I adore the versatility of these lumpy tubers.  Slice 'em, dice 'em, fry 'em, mash 'em.  I could go on and on.  The adaptability of a tasty tater is so vast that you can create dishes that range from super simple to elaborate, from rustic and hearty to elegant at any dinner party.  Which is why I'm always on the hunt for new ways to serve them. Awhile back I was fishing around the web and happened upon a recipe for Potatoes Anna from Martha Stewart. It seemed super easy with a crunchy outcome.  As we all know by now, I love crunchy things so it seemed like a no brainier, except that the recipe called for butter which my hubby, JC, can't eat.  But there was an emergency in my house. Potatoes were in abundance coupled with my severe hankering for some starchy goodness.  A recipe intervention was desperately required. So with two types of potatoes about to expire, tons of onions on hand, and toss in the elimination of butter, the time was ripe to modify Potatoes Ann a and make it my own.

Click here for the original recipe, in case you want to try the butter, no onion version.

Here's how it went down the first time.  Keep on reading to see what I recently did to make them even more satisfyingly star spudded.

Ingredients 

Idaho potatoes, thinly sliced
Red new potatoes, thinly sliced
Red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
Magic 3 (olive oil, salt, pepper)

The reason I haven't given exact amounts is because you can make this if you have 3 potatoes or more. It depends on the size of our pan or how many layers you want. Also you may get more slices depending on the size of the potato.  I used a 12" cast iron pan for about 6-7 potatoes.

Instructions

First things first, using a mandolin start thinly slicing your onions and potatoes. If you don't have a mandolin, do not freak out. Do it the good old fashioned way and slice them with a knife, (or even a box grater on the widest cutter).  

Slices of potatoes and onions

It's best if you use a cast iron pan for this recipe, as it holds the heat and creates the crust you want.  Again, no need to freak, If you don't have one. (Although I would highly recommend investing in one as a cast iron pan has tons of uses.)  Just use a pan that is oven safe and start placing the potato rounds in an overlapping circular fashion around the pan covering the entire bottom in one layer.  Add the onions slices, drizzle some oil, salt, pepper. Continue layering alternating between the two potato types, adding the onion, oil, salt and pepper to each layer. Keep going til you fill the pan up or run out of potatoes, whichever comes first, but do not add onions to the final top layer.

Potato circles
Continue layering adding onions, salt, pepper and oil to each layer.

Continue layering adding onions, salt, pepper and oil to each layer.

On the burner, cook at medium high heat until you hear the sizzle.  You want to create a crust on the bottom. Then place the pan in a 450 degree oven for an hour.  Test it with a knife to see if the potatoes are done.  You want them to be tender in the middle but crusty on both top and bottom.  

A good amount of crust.  Now you can remove it from the oven. This will be on the bottom once you flip it over.

A good amount of crust.  Now you can remove it from the oven. This will be on the bottom once you flip it over.

Once they have reached the perfect crust on top, carefully, and with oven mitts, place a large plate over the top of the pan and flip over so the bottom crusty part is the top.  You are going to squeal with joy when this crispy creation is revealed.

SQUEAL!! Smaller version made in a cast iron pan.  Shhh, this one has the cheese!

SQUEAL!! Smaller version made in a cast iron pan.  Shhh, this one has the cheese!

Use a serrated knife to cut cake like slices.  Ok, here is the rundown of ways you can serve this. It's a great dish for a party since you can serve it room temp.  It's ideal as a side dish to any meat, fish or chicken meal. It's a no brainier plate for a brunch table to be served with eggs.  Or how about with some smoked salmon and sour cream.  Oh, you don't need me to tell you how to eat this satisfying spud.  Just dig in, damn it!

slice.sourcream2.jpg

 A slice with greek yogurt and scallions

A great complement to smoked salmon and sour cream.

A great complement to smoked salmon and sour cream.

Just recently I made this again but had the brilliant idea to add cheese to each layer.  Ok, so maybe I'm not so brilliant since it is a well known fact that adding cheese to anything makes it better. Here is an inside look at that version.  I used a Spanish cheese, L' Alt Urgell, since it was the only one I had in the fridge and it created cheesy, gooeyness that upped the ante on these layers of lusciousness.  I'm glad I had this cheese as it added an earthy, nutty flavor to the dish. Use whatever you like but I would avoid any really soft creamy cheeses like goat or ricotta, as it might ooze too much during the cooking process.  

I made this baby one using a smaller 8" cast iron pan.  I used about 4-5 potatoes.

I made this baby one using a smaller 8" cast iron pan.  I used about 4-5 potatoes.

If you love spuds like I love spuds you going to fall in love with this one.  Hope you enjoy how Potatoes Anna turned into Potatoes Dana!

Smoked Salmon with Pickled Fennel

You may recall that I mentioned being inspired by a couple of dishes we enjoyed  when last in Miami. Last week's post provided my version of a Meaty Ragu, so this week is my take of the other dish featuring salmon and fennel. I also figured that with the holidays approaching and New Year's Eve around the corner, this no cook, fast assemble appetizer might be helpful.  It is an austere dish with just two stars but each one has its own strong identity.   

salmon & fennel
fennel & vinegar

Ingredients

Smoked Salmon
3 c fennel, shaved or sliced thinly
5 T rice wine vinegar
2 T sugar
3 T honey
1/2 t salt
Lemon Zest
Fennel Fronds for decorating the plate (optional)
Lemon slice for decorating the plate  (optional)
Rye or Pumpernickel bread for serving (optional)

vinegar & sugar

Instructions

Melt the honey and whisk together with the vinegar, sugar, salt.  Add the shaved fennel and set aside to marinate and pickle for at least an hour.

Thin slivers of fennel.  I love using a mandolin, but please watch your fingers!

Thin slivers of fennel.  I love using a mandolin, but please watch your fingers!

Fennel slices bathing in vinegar, sugar, salt and honey

Fennel slices bathing in vinegar, sugar, salt and honey

Once your fennel is pickled to your liking, you can begin to assemble your platter.  This is one of those dishes that can be assembled ahead of your party and kept covered in the fridge until guests arrive.  If you liked my idea of using the fennel fronds for color and decorating the platter, go ahead and place those as your base. Then roll up the salmon slices and arrange standing up.  Gather up a bunch of the pickled fennel and tap with a paper towel to remove any excess liquid before placing on the platter.  Arrange your plate any way you like.  Finish by grating some lemon zest a top the entire platter.  That is it.  I told you it would be a no cook, easy app!

Design your platter any way you like.  I like using the fennel fronds to decorate.  It adds color and architectural elements.

Design your platter any way you like.  I like using the fennel fronds to decorate.  It adds color and architectural elements.

Use a good smoked salmon, as it is the star of the show here.  I would recommend having it hand cut in thin slices. Pickling the fennel really brings out the crunch and adds that acidic element which is balanced with honey so as to not overpower the salmon. This dish was part of a cocktail party.  Knowing that the other plates on the buffet would provide hearty options I served this dish just as is, but had bread, crackers and endive on the buffet table.  However, if you wanted to make this a more substantial plate or serve this as a first course, you could present it with some creme fraiche and pumpernickel or rye bread.  I think that combination would be wonderful and perfect for a holiday party or New Year's Eve cocktail event.

Ideal for brunch, or as a starter to a dinner party. Hey if you are so inclined to have a party with pass around plates, this would fit that bill.  Refreshing and light but bold with just two stars shining.

Lox on a What?

As some of you may know, I have a food sensitivity to wheat and try to be as wheat free as possible.  A few months back on a glorious Sunday morning, my hubby went out early to buy warm, soft, billowy bagels for our houseguests.  He also was thinking of me, as he opened the bag and pulled out scallion cream cheese and luscious lox.  I quickly went through the cupboards in search of my favorite Mary’s Gone Crackers  (gluten free!) only to find the cupboards bare.  What's a girl to do?  I peeked into the bagel bag breathing in their yeasty aromas.  I even starting eyeing the one who would be my wheat free wrecking ball. Oh, my temptation was deep but my WILL was stronger.

As I looked around the kitchen I spied an apple.  At first thought, it seemed like it might be too sweet, but upon realization that this would be my only delivery vehicle for my cream cheese-lox combo, I quickly washed and sliced away.

I knew it wouldn’t taste bad, but I had the bagel in the back of my head.

Much to my surprise the balance of flavors played off each other beautifully.  The crispness of the apple was so fresh against the creaminess of the cheese and the salty bite of the lox. An added bonus for me, since I like different textures in my food, was the apple provided a crunchiness that a bagel fails to give.  

Oh my friends, I dare say I might never be tempted by those soft billows again. The weekend is approaching and Sunday is as good a time as any for this combo.  Give it try. I would go as far to say these would make a great brunch plate or even a light appetizer for a fall party.  You might want to cut the apple with cookie cutters or into smaller bite sized pieces. If you choose to serve these in that way, squeeze some lemon juice over the apple slices to keep them from turning brown.  Heck, do that anyway, it will just enhance the overall flavor. 

Lox on a what? Yes, on an apple.