Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 41 Issue 19 • Sept. 15-21, 2011
now in our 41th season

Test Kitchen

by Jenn Farmer - Chef and Food Fancier

One of the things I find most exciting about cooking is experimenting with old favorite recipes to make something new (and eating of course). I love food so much in fact that I tend to start thinking about lunch and dinner while I eat breakfast.  My closest friends all are into food, and sometimes we end up going on and on for hours like a verbal version of Iron Chef. This (not unsurprisingly) happens over a few beers, and often while we are cooking up another meal.  Last week, for example, I was hanging out with some friends and decided to make a huge batch of mole sauce.  Mole is a Mexican sauce that is made with dried chilies, nuts, raisins, and bitter chocolate and has both bitter and sweet qualities.  It is time consuming to make, but it has become a comfort food for me and reminds me of the time I spent living out West. We took the sauce and slow cooked chicken thighs in it.  We ate it with freshly made tortillas, pico de gallo (fresh salsa), kale, and a nice quinoa salad.  It was a delicious meal, but like true cooks we could not stop discussing what we would eat next.  We had a vat of mole to work with which was a great place to begin.  My first idea was to make slow roasted pork with the mole, then turn it into tamales.  But these would be no ordinary tamales.  I wanted to break up a chocolate covered toffee bar into small pieces and mix it into the masa or the dough for the main part of the tamale.  I could not stop thinking about how well the chocolate and toffee would steam into the dough giving it bits of sweetness that would complement the pork mole so well.  Then the ideas began to fly. Make vinaigrette flavored with the mole and serve it over crispy salad greens with pumpkin seeds, avocado, and fresh cheese.  Or, mix some mole into cornbread batter before baking it, and serving it with a nice bowl spicy chili.  Grilled lamb brushed with mole and served like gyros. One of my favorite ideas was making duck mole tacos topped with shredded pickled scallions.  The ideas were creative and endless.  It was so much fun discussing the possibilities, and was even better trying them out.

One does not need to be a foodie or make intricate recipes to experiment when cooking.  Some of my favorite recipes are very simple but just have a new twist.  Breads are a great example, since they are very conducive to sweet and savory.  I like to add goat cheese and herbs to my favorite biscuit recipe.  Other times I will add crumbled bacon and chocolate chips to the same recipe.  Or even a little lemon zest or ginger can make a huge difference to a simple recipe. The following recipe is very versatile.  As is they are delicious served with fresh tomato soup or corn chowder. I love using these biscuits instead of a bun for little lamb sliders, with roasted red pepper mayonnaise.  Possibilities are vast.

Goat Cheese Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • One half teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 4-5 ounces cheve goat cheese, cold
  • Three quarters of a cup buttermilk or goat milk
  • 1/3 cup fresh herbs, chopped (I like to use chives, parsley, & fresh thyme)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Sift all of the dry ingredients together.  Cut the cold butter into very small pieces.  Add the very cold butter pieces and cheve to the dry ingredients and either mix together by hand or pulse in a food processor. Add the herbs and mix.  Then slowly add the milk to moisten and gather into a ball.  Dust the board lightly with flour for rolling out the dough.  Roll the dough into a rectangle that is about one half inch thick. Fold the shorter sides of the dough into the center and roll it out.  Repeat one more time (this creates the flaky texture).  Cut into small or large biscuits, and place on an ungreased sheet tray, giving plenty of room for them to double in size.  Brush with a little buttermilk, and bake until golden brown and doubled in size.  This takes from 10-15 minutes (depending on size of biscuits).  Try substituting other ingredients for the fresh herbs and cheese.  

Beet and Horseradish Relish

  • 1 pound cooked and peeled beets, cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons fresh horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Combine the ingredients in a blender and pulse till coarsely chopped, refrigerate for at least 2 days before eating. Makes four servings.

Beet relish is very popular in Eastern Europe cuisine.  Many of my friends say they remember specifically eating it with eggs and ham or kielbasa for Easter breakfast.  I actually add more horseradish to my relish. I like to eat the relish on lots of things, but the following is my favorite.  

Grilled Hamburger with Fried Egg and Beet Relish

  • 4 burgers (1/4 pound to 1/2 pound per person)
  • 4 eggs
  • Beet and Horseradish Relish (recipe above)
  • 4 slices Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 poppyseed bulkie rolls
  • Softened butter
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices tomato
  • Mayonnaise (optional)

Grill or pan fry the hamburgers to your favorite temperature and melt the cheddar cheese slices on them. Brush the bulkie rolls with butter and grill or griddle until crisp golden brown.   Quickly fry the eggs separately (over easy or medium is great since the yolk is still soft and tastes so good with the burger).  Top each bulkie roll with cooked burger, egg , tomato, lettuce, a little mayo, and beet relish.    Serves 4 hungry people.

One of my favorite foods to play with and to eat are tater tots.  Go ahead make fun of me, but fry them up with a little duck fat, and add some of Bartholomew’s Nantucket “Island Spice” seasoning (available at Easy Street Cantina on Broad Street), and we will see who has the last chuckle.  I have made something similar to a tater tot from scratch, they are delicious but overly time consuming.  I like traditional freezer section tots just fine.  Dress them up by tossing the baked taters with fresh herbs, and a squeeze of lemon.  Serve them plain with dipping sauces, like crème fraiche mixed with chipotles, or shave a little fresh parmesan cheese over them with freshly cracked black pepper.  And who doesn’t love old school tater tot casserole.

Tot Casserole

  • One half pound ground beef
  • One half pound ground lamb
  • 1 cup onion , small diced
  • 1 can cream of condensed mushroom soup (gasp!)
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups frozen Tater Tots

Saute the onion, and add the meats.  Brown the meat well, and break up any chunks.  Drain the fat.  Stir the soup, ketchup, Worcestershire, into the skillet with the meat.  Pour the meat mixture into a casserole dish (12x8 inch shallow or equivilant size).  Arrange the tater tots on top of the casserole.  Bake at 425 for about half an hour (until potatoes are done). 

Have some fun this week, play with your food, get together with some friends and turn your kitchen into a test kitchen and enjoy.


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