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Volume 39 Issue 17 • Aug 27 - Sept 2, 2009
now in our 39th season

Down Home Cooking

by Jenn Farmer
Sous Chef at Bartlett's Farm

The stormy weather has me craving comfort food this week.  I want potatoes, gravy, stew, biscuits, chowder, fried chicken, braised meat, and corn bread.  It is funny since I am usually a big vegetable and fish eater, but that won’t do for me this week, just sauce laden, slow cooked, comfort food. 

I love making mashed potatoes, and everyone has a favorite recipe.  I think most of them are delicious, whether you like to use cream and butter, or milk and margarine, mashed potatoes make me happy.  This recipe is more like a ratio, than a true recipe, and a few tips for great mashed potatoes. 

My mashed potato ratio is for every 3 pounds of potatoes use about a quarter cup of cream and 4 tablespoons butter, then season with salt and pepper.  The one thing I do love most is fluffy potatoes.  The best way to get really flavorful potatoes with a light texture is to follow a few simple tips.  First:  always salt your cooking water.  It is surprising how much flavor a little salt brings out in the potatoes.  Next:  be certain your potatoes are all uniform in size.  If you are mashing whole baby reds, try to pick ones that are all the same size.  If you are using nice big potatoes, peeled or un-peeled, cut them into uniform sized pieces.  This prevents undercooked chunks and lumps.  Now for my favorite tip:  after the potatoes are cooked and drained toss the potatoes back into the same cooking pot for a minute on the heat and let the potatoes dry and fluff up a little. 

Next, use a potato ricer or smash the potatoes with a masher or even a mixer.  Don’t forget to warm up the milk (or cream) and butter before adding it to the potatoes, this helps keep the potatoes hot and helps prevent over mixing of the potatoes.  Yes, you can over mix potatoes—if you do, the starches begin to get gluey and take on an unpleasant, not fluffy texture.  Serve them immediately because re-heating potatoes, really changes the flavor, and they just don’t turn out very good.  (Serves 6 to 8).

I cannot talk about mashed potatoes and not talk about fried chicken.  I love a crispy, buttermilk chicken. 

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

  • One (three pound) fryer chicken, quartered with skin-on
  • 2+ cups buttermilk
  • One small thinly sliced onion
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • One half tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • One half tsp. ground paprika
  • One half tsp. garlic powder
  • One half tsp. ground fenugreek
  • 2-3 cups of flour
  • 2 cups or more canola oil (or any oil with a very high smoke point)

Soak the chicken pieces (overnight if possible) in the buttermilk and cayenne pepper, onion, and paprika.  Mix the salt, pepper, and spices with the flour and put into an appropriate container for breading the chicken.  Keeping one hand “wet” and one hand “dry” dredge the chicken through the flour, then into the buttermilk mixture again and one last time into the seasoned flour.  Set aside.  Using a nice deep frying pan heat up the canola oil medium high (or if you are using a mini deep fryer, set the temperature at 300 degrees F.  Cook the chicken slowly and thoroughly, it takes time and a careful eye on heat, so it does not burn.  If you are cooking in batches, heat the oven up, and place the cooked chicken on a sheet tray to keep warm.  The chicken is cooked when pierced and the juices run clear, not pink or cloudy.  Serves 4 to 6.

Speaking of fried chicken and mashed potatoes, a home cooked meal needs dessert.  My family is part Czechoslovakian, and we love kolaches for dessert.  Kolaches are a pastry of slightly sweetened bread dough, usually filled with fruit, and baked.  They are great, not too sweet, but satisfying.  We always have kolaches for special occasions in the house.  The fillings can be just about anything, and we all have our favorite flavor.  I like poppy seed or cherry the best.  My grandfather loved stewed prunes.  Any kind of jam can be used successfully, as well as canned poppy seed filling or even sweetened cottage or cream cheese.  Unfortunately the pastry goes stale very quickly, like many freshly baked items do.  Fortunately there are usually none left, but if there are leftovers, freezing them is a great idea.  This recipe is very time consuming, but I assure you well worth it, especially if you make it with some friends or family, and enjoy your time together, socializing. 

Bohemian Kolaches

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • One half cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 (1/4 ounce) packages quick rise dry yeast
  • 4 to 4 and one half cups flour
  • One half cup oil
  • 1/ 4 cup melted butter
  • 2-3 cups fruit filling (like cherry pie filling or apricot jam)

Beat all the eggs until smooth, stir in sugar, salt, and milk.  Then add the boiling water.  Let the mixture cool to a little warmer than room temperature.  Stir in the yeast, and 3 cups of the flour.  Beat until well blended. 

Slowly add the oil, mixing well.  Transfer the dough to a well floured surface, and begin to slowly knead in the additional flour, half cup at a time.  This will probably take about 10 minutes.  The dough will be very shiny and smooth.  Oil a large bowl and place dough in it.  Cover with a clean dish cloth, or waxed paper and let rise in a warm place for about an hour and fifteen minutes, or until dough doubles in size.  Punch the dough down, and form into another ball.  Let dough rise another for another 30 minutes.  Oil or use parchment on some baking sheets, roll out the dough to about 1/ 4” thick and cut into 3-4” rounds (or use a glass and a sharp paring knife.  Place the kolaches on the baking sheet, and brush with melted butter.  Cover the trays and let rise again until each one is doubled (20-30 minutes). 

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Make an indentation in each kolache center with your thumb.  Fill each indentation with about 2 T. filling each.  Bake them until they are light golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  Remove to cooling racks.    Makes 2-3 dozen pastries.

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