What I had for dinner:

Potato Cakes and Mushrooms

[ Previous ] 23 May 1994 23:06:04 -0400 [   Next   ]

After a sun- and fun-filled week-end with my friend Leif, on a quick visit from Sweden on his way to Madison, no more restaurants for a while.

I puzzled a lot about dinner tonight. That is the problem of Spring, of course: Too many goodies. Eventually, I got asparagus for tomorrow, and planned for tonight a mixed-mushroom sauce for a dish of gnocchis. Unfortunately, there weren't any gnocchis in sight in their customary place, with the frozen pasta. So, I had to improvise. That's what I like best anyway...

Staying with the potato theme, I decided to make potato cakes from a dough resembling that for cream-puffs. The inspiration was of course the recipe for potatoes Dauphine, for which equal amounts of dough and mashed potatoes are mixed, then baked or deep-fried. I went with something simpler, with no flour (so that it cannot puff, since there is no gluten to trap the steam during baking).

I boiled one large Idaho (cut in slices) for 10 minutes, drained it well, and mashed it thoroughly with a fork. To the dryish mash, I added 1 tbsp of olive oil and some fresh white pepper, mixed well, then incorporated one egg. With a wooden spatula, I heated the mixture over very low heat (the egg must not cook -yet-), until homogeneous, then formed little mounds on a cookie sheet lined with foil. (A spoon or a pastry bag can be used, or even bare hands. The dough is not sticky.)

The potato cakes are then baked at 350F until golden on top and bottom, about 20 min.

Meanwhile, sliced onion and sliced mushrooms (a mixture of cremini and shiitake) cooked together with a little oil until all the juices had evaporated. Two jalapeño peppers in slivers were then added, and cooked with good stirring for a few minutes, with two sliced cloves of garlic added for the last 30 seconds, and then one cup of water to cover the whole mess. A few sliced sun-dried tomatoes (use scissors to cut them. They are tough!) finish it all.

For appetizer, I made a salad of raw fava beans. Now, to my Mediterranean nose, cooked fava beans have the same odor of poverty that boiled cabbage has to the Central European nose, that mixture of nostalgia and revulsion, of tenements with or without the sun. Raw fava beans, the small, slightly underripe ones in particular, are deliciously refreshing. Around the Mediterranean, they are commonly eaten as snacks, dipped one by one in a little mound of salt while one savors an apperitif; this time I mixed them instead with like-sized bits of tomato and cucumber into a little salad.

(Note that some people get acutely sick from fava beans; favism is a rare predisposition to a hemolytic disease, probably inherited, caused by eating the beans or being exposed to the pollen of the plant. I've never known anyone who was affected, but the word of caution is there in all the cookbooks as well as in the Merck Manual.)

To drink, a bottle of Castelain, my absolute favorite among the French bières de garde.

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