Baby hasselback potatoes topped with burrata

baby hasselback potatoes with burrata

Baby hasselback potatoes with burrata, crispy chicken skin and fried garlic

I love cute food. I can’t help it — give me tiny one-bite appetizers or adorable mini anything and I will love it. There’s just something about a petite portion of food that is so pleasing.

And early summer is great time to find produce to aid with this mission. There are tiny spring onions, mini patty pan squashes and the smallest new potatoes that taste like butter. A week or so ago, I was woo-ed into buying some little red potatoes and after having roasted a batch or two, I was looking for something new to try.

I had a ball of burrata cheese in my fridge, crispy chicken skin from a recently roasted bird, and thanks to this recipe, things started to come together.

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Inverting the Gratin

Upside Down Potato Onion Tart

When in doubt about what to cook for large family gatherings, I’ve found that anything combining cheese and potatoes is sure to be a hit. My favorite crowd-pleasing side dishes include twice-baked potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes and creamy potatoes au gratin, all made with copious amounts of cheesy goodness.

Keeping that in mind, I decided to make this gorgeous-looking upside down potato onion tart to go with last Sunday’s Easter ham. That decision was a difficult one as I had never made the recipe before and cooking something for a group of people without a trial run is a little unusual for me. I’m a firm believer in trying recipes out before subjecting people to them!

But this recipe looked fairly simple to make and just reading the ingredient list gave me confidence: potatoes, onions, cheese, butter, herbs. With such humble and tasty ingredients, how could it not turn out delicious?

Happily, it was everything I wanted it to be — the potato layers were sandwiched between caramelized onions and sharp pecorino, making this a truly decadent dish. The edges (my favorite part) were crisp and cheesy and the center was creamy and luxurious. Surprisingly though, for all that flavor, the recipe used only a bit of butter and didn’t even call for cream!

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Mini Pommes Anna, Wagyu Beef and a Meal of Decadence

Mini Pommes Anna

Mini Pommes Anna with Thyme

I am a sucker for cute food. Usually there are two ways to make normal culinary treats adorable. The first step is to miniaturize, which leads directly to the success of the second part — individualize. Sure a cheesecake can be beautiful, but shrink it down and give each person their own? Adorable! This is why I was completely unable to resist the idea of these mini herbed Pommes Anna from the November issue of Bon Appetit.

These buttery little things were part of a seriously decadent meal that I made for my husband last week. The star of the show was actually a Wagyu bavette that I had bought from work. A quick meaty lesson for you about Wagyu beef, commonly referred to in the states simply as Kobe beef. I won’t bore you with what Japanese Kobe beef actually is — I’m sure you all are well versed — but American Kobe beef is slightly different.

Instead of being full-blood Wagyu, it is usually produced from a cross breeding of Angus and Wagyu. In order to be considered “pure bred” the mix must contain 51% Wagyu (which seems to be a fallacy but hey, that’s how it goes). This beef was from a full-blood 100% Wagyu animal raised in Washington, whose lineage can be traced back five generations. My company bought two of three animals available from the rancher and we were all ecstatic at the opportunity to see and taste the beef.

At work, we did a “food porn” photo shoot with the meat after it was butchered. Click here to see the various cuts in all their glory — they are drool-worthy! We also seared off a bottom round (usually a braising cut) which melted in our mouths like beef-flavored butter. The fat actually will melt at room temperature which I have never seen before. It was truly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten — even prepared with just salt and pepper — and I was super excited to bring some home to share with my husband (and a few friends).

After all, what better way to say I love you than with fatty fabulous beef?

Whole sirloin flap or bavette steak

Whole sirloin flap or bavette steak

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The dinner that would have gotten me on The Price is Right!

So last week, while grocery shopping, I had a moment to revel in the fact that if I had been on a game show, I would have won big, like maybe a new car or a trip to France.

This is how it happened…

I had some stuff at home to make dinner out of — chicken breasts, brussels sprouts and a little bit of spinach — but it certainly wasn’t cohesive enough for an actual meal. In fact it was rather underwhelming. I had also forgotten to bring my debit card to work, which meant I was very limited in what I could buy in terms of produce on my way home (since I commute by bike errands need to be very streamlined). I did however manage to scrounge up four dollars in cash.

After a childhood spent watching The Price is Right and Supermarket Sweep, this shopping trip was a challenge I gleefully accepted. I started with a couple of cups of cake flour from the bulk section (it was the same night I made my Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake and quite honestly that was my priority). Then I grabbed a handful or two of tiny red potatoes. I actually picked out the smallest ones because they were just so damn cute. Then I carefully selected three carrots, a head of garlic and a few green beans. Mentally I calculated their prices, weighing everything a second time. Hesitantly I grabbed a red onion. Then on my way to check out, I haphazardly lunged for a bunch of parsley.

Nervously I approached the checkout stand and watched the tally climb as each item slid across the scanner. This was definitely a time where I was grateful that I live in a city with no sales tax! After the last item went into the bag, the cashier gave me the total:

Four dollars on the dot!

And this is when I envisioned Bob Barker giving me a big hug and congratulating me on winning both Showcase Showdowns. I’m embarrassed to admit I would have been one of those women that practically mauled him they were so excited. Man, I loved Bob Barker as a kid.

I proudly packed my goodies away and upon arriving home, immediately got the oven hot and set to work making dinner. I wasn’t too sure what I was going to make, so I started with the easy stuff first — roasting some vegetables.

I rubbed the head of garlic in olive oil, wrapped it in foil and put it in the oven. Then I did the same to the red onion (cut into slices), brussels sprouts (cut in half) and potatoes (left whole). A quick splash of oil, some salt and pepper, and in the oven they went.

I contemplated roasting the carrots as well but thought I’d do something a little different with them just for the hell of it. I wanted to preserve their vibrant colors so I went with a simple glazing technique from America’s Test Kitchen’s Light and Healthy cookbook. It’s simple, quick and, well, healthy.

But before we get that far, let’s take a moment to appreciate my pretty carrots.

So pretty!

Now the carrot recipe is one I use fairly often because it only requires one pan (I use a large skillet) and a handful of ingredients — carrots, sugar, olive oil, water and (if you’re me) butter. Start off with a cup of water, a splash of sugar and a dash of olive oil in the pan and bring to a boil. Add in the carrots (parsnips also work great) and cover. Let simmer until the carrots are just tender, about 7 minutes or so. Then remove the lid, turn the heat to high and let the liquid evaporate, stirring often. The carrots will brown and caramelize quickly so keep your eye on them. This is where I add a nubbin of butter just to help things out. Remember, there is a fine line between caramelized and burnt.

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