Saturday, September 26, 2009

Brown butter... and mashed potatoes

I was an  exchange student and today I was chatting with my AFS host mother on facebook and I mentioned that I could never tell whether she was making real or instant mashed potatoes. My host brother liked the instant one and I of course liked the homemade. Ginny's food tasted so good that she fooled both of us and it was impossible not to eat once or twice... I put on 26 pounds when I was an exchange student... The best way to adjust to a new culture is to jump... into the kitchen, don't you think?

Like the first time I saw a salad bar... I was amazed at the variety of food... it was right after I met my host family, coming back from the airport on the way to my new home. A salad bar over 20 years ago was just impossible to imagine having over here in my small Brazilian town... now it is so common.

So many stories... I hope my kids will build strong gastronomic memories the way I did, with my own family and with friends around the world.

This mashed potato recipe is very simple, it is the brown butter that makes it special.

Brown butter mashed potatoes

3 pounds (1.5 kg) potatoes, skin on and whole
1 cup milk (you can also use soy cream or half and half)
1 stick butter
1 small carrot, grated and cooked (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1) Put the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large saucepan and add water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water and then peel. Return potatoes into empty pan and mash with a potato masher. Add cooked carrot.

2) Melt butter in a small saucepan. Let it foam once, cook over low heat until it begins to brown. Then take off the heat and add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour over the potatoes and cook until desired consistency. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two recipes

We celebrated our 15th anniversary on August 6th and when I looked at this picture I thought I'd share two recipes. Pumpkin compote (Doce de abóbora) and Fig compote (Doce de figo).

Compotes are very popular all over Brazil. Fruit compotes are made with pieces of fruits cooked on low heat in a thick syrup with spices, usually cloves and cinnamon sticks or even orange peels. You can smash the fruits at the end or not.

Serve compotes warm or chilled, with whipped cream or farmer's cheese. As you see they are easy to make and are very versatile.
Butternut squash compote
2 pounds (1kg) sweet butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (2.5 cm)
2 cups white sugar

1 cinnamon stick
6-8 whole cloves
3 cups water

1) Over medium heat cook sugar in water with cinnamon sticks and cloves until it becomes a thick syrup.

2) Add the pumpkin cubes and cook until the squash is soft and tender, watch it as the pumpkin needs to be tender, but not breaking down into a mush. Serve warm or cold, plain, with whipped cream or soft cheeses, like farmer's cheese.

Green fig compote
2 pounds (1 kg) fresh green figs
2 cups sugar
3 cups water
6-8 whole cloves

1) Wash figs in warm water, lightly rub each one with a cloth. Cut into 4 wedges and let the edges attached. Boil in hot water for one minute.

2) Over medium heat, cook sugar in water with cloves until it becomes a thick syrup. Add figs and cook until they are soft. Serve with whipped cream or plain.