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Reheating without a microwave. January 28, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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1 comment so far

Silence Dogood here. I was recently reading a statement on a blog I very much respect in which the blogger responded to someone who asked how to reheat leftover mashed potatoes without a microwave, “Mashed potatoes don’t reheat very well.” Gasp!

This certainly hasn’t been my experience. Now mind you, I’ve never owned a microwave, which for all I know could reheat mashed potatoes, leftover pasta, dressing, corn pudding, rice, dal, refried beans, chili, and so on perfectly at the push of a button. But if, like me, you don’t have one, what’s the alternative?

Clearly, it’s not a pot on the stove. Try reheating rice, mashed potatoes, pasta, or what-have-you in a pot, however heavy, on the stove, be it turned down ever so low, and you’re asking for the dreaded burned-on bottom and thrown-out, burnt-smelling top. Yuck! And to top it off, you need Iron Man to scrape all that burnt, sooty gook off the bottom of the pan.

Been there, done that, way too many times. Forget the stovetop: When it comes to heating leftovers, the oven is your friend. Our friend Ben and I have a compact countertop convection oven—larger than a toaster oven but way smaller than a conventional oven—on, shock surprise, our kitchen counter.

Now, this convection oven has definite drawbacks when it comes to cooking, simply because it’s smaller than a “real” oven. Fewer slices of pizza, fewer trays of roasting veggies, fewer pans of lasagna or dressing or a combination of casseroles can fit in the countertop oven at a time. But when it comes to reheating, it’s a dream.

Here’s what I do: Put a little milk—and I mean a little milk, a couple of tablespoons—in the bottom of an ovenproof glass, clay, or metal pan. Add your mashed potatoes or creamy pasta, cover with aluminum foil, and pop in the oven at the “convection-stay on” settings. I like to start out at 350, then quickly dial down to 300, then 250, then 200, removing the potatoes or pasta when they’re heated through. Give them a quick stir, serve: They’re perfect! No burnt anything, and if anything, they taste even better than when first made.

This works for pretty much any leftovers, too, even if they’re not creamy like mashed potatoes or creamy pasta. Suppose you’re reheating rice or baked beans or spaghetti or chili or refried beans or dal. If the rice or spaghetti looks really dry, add a splash—again, just a splash—of water or veggie stock in the bottom of the pan instead of milk, then put in your leftovers, top with foil, and heat until heated through. I’ve found that veggie sides like green beans, carrots, or roasted veggies reheat beautifully in the aluminum-topped pan with no additional liquid at all, as long as you added butter when you originally cooked them.

So simple, but so good! Clearly, this would work in a real oven as well if you kept the heat low, but it seems like a waste to heat an entire oven just to heat up some leftovers. But if you do happen to have a countertop oven, I think this is the very best way to reheat leftovers, even if you do have a microwave. And if, like us, you don’t, it’s a godsend.  

             ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

Addendum: Once again, my friend Delilah has come to the rescue with a great suggestion here. She uses a double boiler to heat leftovers without scorching, burning, or drowning them. Delilah points out that adding a bit of water—one or two inches—in the bottom pan of the double boiler (make sure you don’t add so much that it touches the top pan), bringing it to a simmer, then putting the leftovers in the top pan, covering it with the lid, then cooking until the leftovers are heated through, typically ten minutes, turns out perfect leftovers with no added anything, every time. Thanks, Delilah! Great idea!!!

The Monster Mash: Potatoes. October 3, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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2 comments

Silence Dogood here. The other night, I made some luscious Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, adding some half-and-half, butter, and Trocamare (spicy salt). Now that nights are colder, they’re so good! The problem is, I got a little carried away. Even our friend Ben’s two heaping platefuls didn’t use up all those mashed potatoes. Shiloh got some as a special treat, but I still had leftovers. What to do?

Shepherd’s pie of course came to mind. I make a great vegetarian version with our thick, hearty lentil stew as a base (carrots and onions already included) and the mashed potatoes, topped with dabs of butter and a sprinkling of paprika, spread on top. Only problem is, I’d just given our extra lentil stew to our neighbors.

Hmmm, I thought, time to go explore the wide world of online mashed potato recipes. Well, they’re certainly out there. I found everything from mashed potato soup to mashed potato dumplings to mashed potato omelette and even baked mashed potatoes with eggs cracked into them. There were mashed potato rolls (yum) and a casserole that basically dumped in all the Thanksgiving leftovers, including the green bean casserole and turkey (I think they left out the cranberries, but eeewww).

One recipe really stood out, though, and it was for mashed potato croquettes. Originally published in a different version in the New York Times, the recipe calls for bazillion bowls (this woman clearly had a dishwasher) and piquillo peppers (I had to look them up; turns out they’re a special kind of sweet roasted Spanish pepper). The original version called for diced ham instead of the diced onion, so feel free to use it if you’d rather. And it called for bread crumbs, but of course I have to wonder if Pepperidge Farm herbed stuffing mix, pounded to bread crumb consistency, might not be even more delicious. And what if you substituted cayenne for the smoked paprika? Or fried them in butter instead of oil?! Well, before I get too out of control, here’s the recipe.

               Mashed Potato Croquettes

3 cups mashed potatoes, chilled

2 1/4 cups plain bread crumbs

1/2 large sweet onion (WallaWalla, Vidalia, 1015 or Candy type), diced

1/2 cup piquillo or roasted red pepper, diced small

5 large eggs and 1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon salt (we like RealSalt)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 cup all-purpose flour

olive or vegetable oil for frying

Combine potatoes, onion, piquillo or roasted red pepper, 3/4 cup bread crumbs, 1 egg, the egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, mixing well. Place the remaining 4 eggs in a wide, shallow bowl and beat lightly. Place remaining 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs in a second bowl and the flour in a third. Season the bread crumbs with 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Form about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture into a 3-inch-long finger, repeating this process until you’ve used up all the potato mixture. Dip each finger first into the flour, tapping off excess, then in the eggs, and finally in the bread crumbs. Transfer all fingers to a baking sheet, cover the sheet with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.

To cook the croquettes, heat about 1/4 inch of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the croquettes in batches, turning once, until they’re dark golden brown all over, about 2-3 minutes a side. Transfer to paper towel-lined plates and sprinkle with additional salt. Serve hot.

Makes about 3 dozen croquettes.

Hmmm, I wonder how many people those 3 dozen croquettes would serve? (Assuming you’re talking about normal people and not our friend Ben.) And I also wonder if, like fried mozzarella, they’d lend themselves to a dipping sauce like warm marinara. Speaking of mozzarella, I wonder what would happen if you added shredded cheese to the croquettes? Clearly experimentation is in order!

           ‘Til next time,

                        Silence