Saturday, July 12, 2014

Savory Sweet Potato Salad

Slap yo Momma, this is the BEST tater salad I've ever had!!!  I'm skipping ahead to my last submission for the recipe contest, since I'm still not 100% satisfied with how recipe #5 turned out.  It was a wine infused trout that I DID submit, and it was pretty good, but I think it's got some more adjustments to make to it before posting it on the blog.  I probably shouldn't of submitted it for the contest, but I wanted to get another entry in so I did anyways.  The recipe today though is for the most AH-MAZING potato salad you'll ever eat!  I actually didn't even intend on entering this one into the Away from Home cooking contest, but once I made it I realized it fit all the rules (except I did have to omit the pepper in the recipe entry because I had 11 ingredients instead of 10...hope it still turns out ok!), and it also was so amazing I knew I had to!  I made this for a "5th of July" shindig and everyone raved about it there as well ( wasn't just me that thought this sucker was good!).  Then most of them asked for the recipe too (good thing I wrote it down!).  The inspiration for this dish was the fact that while I love the concept of potato salad at a cookout, I typically am not too thrilled over most.  They're usually just so BORING.  They typically all have that "deli" taste to them- the mustard base with eggs and relish and maybe celery.  It never thrills me.  And I try and eat more sweet potatoes than white potatoes because sweet potatoes pretty much have 10 times the nutrients in them (yes...I made that statistic up...).  I also hate it when a potato salad is sweet (I know..."hate" is a strong word!), therefore, there's no sugar in my recipe!  I used all mayo (no sour cream...therefore no dairy...therefore my dairy-free friends can eat it too!), added lemon juice to bring out the flavor, used 2 types of onions (red and green) to give it a crunch (I really had no desire to add celery or relish), used fresh herbs (dill and thyme), seasoned with paprika (to give it a slight kick!), salt/pepper, and then I added bacon bits!!  BACON and fresh herbs make all the difference!  


The usual texture changes that typical potato salads have, I achieved by using the red onion, green onion, and bacon bits...and I didn't have to add the other "generic" stuff to it that I strongly dislike! (eggs, celery, relish...etc.).  (And side note- DON'T USE MIRACLE WHIP!!  It will NOT taste the same if you do!  Not to mention that stuff's just GROSS anyways.  Don't use it people.  Ever.  Just.  Don't.)  If you want to make an easy meal to impress and knock people off their feet with yummy goodness, this is the way to go!  You should know that it will take a few hours to make since the potatoes have to cook and cool COMPLETELY before adding the dressing to them, and THEN they have to sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld together (the longer the better!).  So, give yourself a good 2-4 hours to prepare these.  When I add the dressing to the potatoes, I only add half of the mixture at first to make sure that the potatoes aren't swimming in the dressing.  I gently stir it (if you stir too hard you'll break apart the potatoes and make them mushy!) and then add more dressing as needed.  You may use all of it, you may not.  I only used 3/4 of the mixture.  Note: DON'T throw the leftover dressing away!  It'll make an awesome marinade for fish another night!  So, next time you decide to bring a potato salad to a get-together, try this one instead!  It's a guaranteed hit!  (And if it's not...or if it is!...leave me a comment below and let me know!) 


Savory Sweet Potato Salad
Serves: 8 
Prep and Cook Time: 2 hours (approximately)

2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 TBL fresh thyme, removed from stem
1 TBL fresh dill, chopped 
1/2 TBL kosher salt
1/2 tsp paprika (plus 1/4 tsp for garnish)
1/4 tsp black pepper
Juice from 1/2 medium lemon
1 cup mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip!)
1/4 cup green onions (white part), thinly sliced
2 TBL green onion (green part), thinly sliced (for garnish)
1/2 medium red onion, diced
4 TBL Real Bacon Bits (from a 3 oz. package- NOT the bottled kind), OR use freshly cooked, crumbled bacon (PLUS 1/2 TBL for garnish)

1. Prepare sweet potatoes: Rinse and scrub potatoes, then use a peeler or a small knife to peel the skin off sweet potatoes.  Cut each potato in half, cut into cubes, and place in large pot.
2. Add water to pot of sweet potatoes; enough water to cover the potatoes (about 3/4 full).  Bring water to a boil.  Once boiling, boil sweet potatoes for 5-10 minutes, just until "fork tender" (tender enough to stick a fork in them with no resistance).  Drain and let cool completely (this could take 30 minutes-1 hour to fully cool).
3. While cooking and cooling sweet potatoes, chop and prepare all of the herbs and additional ingredients.  Add mayonnaise into a medium bowl along with the thyme, dill, salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp paprika, lemon juice, 1/4 cup green onion, red onion, and 4 TBL bacon bits.  Stir all ingredients together until well mixed.  If potatoes are not fully cooled yet, let mixture sit covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
4. Once sweet potatoes have fully cooled, add them to a large bowl along with half of the mayonnaise mixture.  Gently stir with a spoon, being careful not to over-mix as this will make the sweet potatoes break up and become "mushy".  Add more of the mayonnaise mixture as needed or desired.  You will want them to be well coated with the mixture, but not drenched in it (you may only use 3/4 of the mixture).  Save any remaining mayonnaise mixture for later use (it's great as a marinade for fish!)
5.  Let the sweet potato salad chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight, to allow the flavors to meld.  Once chilled, gently stir once more and garnish with the additional green onion, bacon, and paprika.

Bon Appetit,

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sauteed Asparagus with Gruyere Cream Sauce

I know, I know.  You're thinking "what's with all the cream sauces, Megan??"  It's just so easy to make and it's SO. GOOD!  Especially when you add CHEESE to it!  Mmmm....  Trust me.  Once you make a cream sauce, you'll want to top it on everything too!!  And mixing up the types of cheese you add to it completely changes the flavor depending on what you're making!  It's like creamy, cheesy magic for your food.  Cream sauce aside, this is my 4th entry in the Away from Home cooking contest; I'm trying hard to at least get in the Top 50!  I made this for a "Celebration Dinner" for my parents to celebrate my Mom's birthday and belated Father's Day.  I asked my Dad what his favorite foods were and he mentioned asparagus as I decided to try and "amp it up" from your regular asparagus...and it worked!  I actually wasn't even intending on entering this one in the contest, but my parents (and I) raved about it and loved it so much- and it fit all the rules for the contest- I figured that I may as well!  If you want a "fancy" take on asparagus, without much effort, this is it!  The Gruyere cheese in the cream sauce is the perfect pairing with the asparagus.  I know Gruyere can be pricier, but I promise it's worth it!!  I actually got my block of Gruyere at Trader Joe's, and it was cheaper than anywhere else...only about $5- not bad if you ask me!  So, if you've got a Trader Joe's in your area, I'd recommend buying it from there (and pick up a few bottles of Two Buck Chuck while your at it- amazing stuff!).  Once again, the small effort of actually shredding the cheese with a grater by hand really makes a difference!  Don't buy the bagged stuff.  Please.  I paired this dish with trout, which also made an excellent pairing.  But this would really be a great side for most any meat- steak, fish, chicken, pork...there's really no meat it wouldn't be good with (in my opinion!).  The key to making the asparagus the perfect tenderness is to parboil them (boiling for a short amount of time) and then immediately placing them in an ice bath (bowl of ice with cold water) so that it shocks them and stops the cooking process until you're ready to sauté them.  Since they've already been parboiled, you don't sauté them very long either.  Another trick- when removing the woody ends of the asparagus, just hold it at the top and the bottom and lightly bend it, wherever it naturally bends is what you want to snap off.  Easy peasy!  So, if you're an asparagus lover, give this a try and you just might fall in love with asparagus even more!  And if you're NOT an asparagus lover, try this with LOTS of the cream sauce (try it with lots of it even if you DO love asparagus) might discover a new love for asparagus (or at least like it a little bit more...).  Enjoy!

Sauteed Asparagus with Gruyere Cream Sauce
Yield: 2 servings
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, rinsed and woody ends removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (plus 1/4 teaspoon) kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, diced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. Fill a medium pot half full of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Prepare and ice bath: add cold water to a medium bowl of ice (bowl should be large enough to hold asparagus once cooked), and set aside.  Add asparagus to boiling water and bring water back to a boil.  Once boiling, boil asparagus for 2 minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water, and immediately transfer to the ice bath.  Set aside.
  2. Mix cream, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small sauce pot.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon (approximately 4 minutes).  Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.
  3. While cooking cream sauce, heat oil in a sauté pan.  Drain asparagus from the ice bath and add to the hot pan.  Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary.  Sauté for approximately 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and top with cream sauce.

Bon Appetit,