Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

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3–4 pounds sweet potatoes
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons bourbon
1¼ cups packed light brown sugar, divided
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (Optional, but please use)

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Scrub the sweet potatoes well. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until very soft when you press the skins. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Slice in half and scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl, discarding the skins.

Beat the sweet potatoes with a wooden spoon to mash them well. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, the cream, the bourbon, and ¼ cup brown sugar. Beat in the cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. Spread in a 1½-quart baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup brown sugar and flour. Cut in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, using a fork to blend well. Stir in the chopped pecans, if using and you should. Sprinkle the topping over the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the topping is light brown and a little crisp and the casserole is bubbly.

 

 

Easy Sweet Potato Fries

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2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
1½ teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt *

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes, if desired, and cut them into slabs, batons, wedges, coins, half-moons, whatever your heart desires. They can be any size, really, as long as they are not less than ¼ inch and not more than 1 inch thick.

Place them in a large bowl and drizzle with the oil. Season with salt and your choice of spices *, if using, and toss to coat. (Use about 1½ teaspoons salt if you’re not using additional seasoning; adjust salt content depending on your preferred spice mix.)

Add the sweet potatoes onto the baking sheet, scraping out any seasoning or fat clinging to the bowl, and arrange them in a single layer.

Roast, turning once if their bottoms darken quickly, until tender and browned, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on size.

* Try adding a teaspoon or two of any of your favorite seasonings. Got some herbes de Provence? Toss it in there. Spanish paprika? Definitely. Za’atar, curry powder Cajun seasonings, Old Bay?  Why not.

 

Quintessential Boiled Peanuts

South Louisianans boil peanuts with Tabasco mash, others throw in crab boil. Some fans prefer them warm, others demand that they be chilled.  People eating boiled peanuts are usually engaged in other tasks—driving, chatting, fishing, watching a ball game.

Peanuts came to North America from Africa and the Caribbean with the slave trade, sometime before the American Revolution. African Americans grew and popularized the peanut both boiled and roasted.

For many the quintessential experience is purchasing them by the side of the road or in a gas station, in soggy brown kraft-paper bags.

Here is the simplest recipe from which a thousand variations can be made:

  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 pounds (8 cups) freshly dug green peanuts in shell
  • 3 tablespoons salt

Bring the water and salt to a low boil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the peanuts and cook to taste, usually 1 to 2 hours. Some like the shell to become soft enough almost to be edible. Let the peanuts sit in the water off the heat until the desired degree of saltiness is reached.

Sorghum Glazed Baby Carrots

1 cup hard apple cider
½ cup sorghum
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 bunches baby carrots (about 1 pound)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the cider, sorghum, lemon juice, orange juice, and butter in a skillet. Bring to a simmer, then add the carrots in a single layer. You may need to cook them in batches, depending on the size of your pan.

Lightly season the carrots with salt and pepper and cook until tender, approximately 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and continue to simmer the sauce until it is reduced to a thin glaze.

Before serving, put the carrots back in the pan and reheat them in the glaze.

 

Kombu No Tsukudani (昆布の昆布)

1 big piece rehydrated kombu (from making Vegetarian Dashi)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1⅔ cups water
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Cut the kombu into strips about 1½ inches wide, then julienne them. Add to a saucepan with the soy sauce, sugar, mirin, vinegar and water, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium—it should be between a simmer and a boil, and cook until the liquid reduces to a thick, sticky glaze.

Taste the kombu; it should be quite soft but not mushy. If it needs more cooking, add a little water.  There should be no liquid left; it should be a glaze as opposed to a sauce. When the kombu is ready, stir in the sesame seeds. Leave to cool before using as a filling for onigiri, a topping for rice or on its own.

 

Hanarenkon (Flower-Shaped Lotus Root)

  • 3¼ ounces lotus root
  • 2 tablespoons  rice vinegar

Vinegar Mixture

  • 4 tablespoons  rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons  water
  • 2 tablespoons  raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons  lemon juice
  • Sea salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients for the vinegar mixture, except
lemon juice, in a saucepan. Place it over low heat to
dissolve all the sugar and salt. Allow to cool.

Peel and slice lotus root into 1/4 inch thick rings. Soak
immediately in water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to prevent
discolouration. Make flower cuts and drain before using.

Boil a pot of water and add the other tablespoon of vinegar.
Add sliced lotus root flowers and boil for 5 minutes.
Remove lotus root and allow to cool.

Add lotus root slices to vinegar mixture and lemon juice in
a resealable bag. Remove any air from the bag, seal and
refrigerate for a minimum of 2–3 hours.

They are better on day two after the sweetness and contrasting sourness become more prominent.

Vegetarian Dashi

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8 cups cold water
14 ounces of vegetable offcuts and peelings from 4 different kinds of vegetables such as carrots, daikon, Chinese cabbage, pumpkin, turnip, etc.
2 slices of root ginger
3/4 ounces of konbu

Place all the ingredients in a pan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer until reduced by half.

Strain through a fine sieve and use as needed.

The dashi will keep in the fridge for a few days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.