Thursday, December 10, 2009
My Venture into Elegant Side Dishes
The holidays are coming up! Many of you may host a dinner party during the coming weeks. If so, this is the perfect recipe to try. It's easy to make and makes a beautiful presentation. What's really nice is that you can make the mashed potatoes the day before and assemble the boats a few hours before your guests arrive. This way, you can throw them in the oven and forget about them while you're preparing the rest of the meal. Most important, they're really good!
I know this recipe might seem long and complicated. It's not! Essentially, you plop some cold mashed potatoes on a little piece of pie dough and bring up the sides – leaving some of the potatoes exposed at the top. You bake them a little while, top them with some cheese and bacon, and then bake them a little longer. That's it! You certainly do not have to use my mashed potato recipe. Feel free to use your own! In fact, plain' ol mashed potatoes work just fine in this dish.
My inspiration for this recipe comes from a common Finnish food called Karjalan Piirakat. With those, you use rye dough instead of pie dough. They don’t have any cheese or fancy stuff in them. I love them! My recipe is a very Americanized version of those delicious pastries. Karjalan Piirakat are sometimes eaten with something called munavoi – a spread made of hard-boiled eggs and softened butter. For whatever reason, many Americans are grossed out at the thought of eating hard-boiled eggs and butter but it's really tasty. The next time you're in Finland, make sure you try the real thing.
My holiday baking is not going well! There is just not enough hours in the day. I'm sure you can all relate. I hope you try this recipe sometime whether it's for an intimate dinner party or Sunday dinner with the family. They're really good and simple to make. Enjoy – and happy eating!
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1 box (2 sheets) of refrigerated pie dough
Seasoned Mashed Potatoes:
3 1/2 lbs Yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened – divided use
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 bunch) scallions, chopped (white and light green parts only)
4 cloves garlic, minced
About 1/2 cup milk, half and half, or cream
3 TBSP sour cream
Salt to taste
Black Pepper (optional)
sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
3 oz package of real bacon bits (sold in the salad dressing aisle)
Chopped Scallions (the dark green parts)
Chives (the oars of the boat)
Sour Cream or Ranch Dip
I know this recipe might seem long and daunting. It's not! Essentially, you plop some cold mashed potatoes on a little pie dough and bring up the sides – leaving the potatoes exposed at the top. You bake them a little while, top them with some cheese and bacon, and then bake them a little longer. That's it!
To make the mashed potatoes (the day before serving):
You, of course, do not need to make my version of these mashed potatoes. Feel free to substitute your own favorite mashed potato recipe. Plain, 'ol mashed potatoes work great. If you want to try a new mashed potato recipe, I think you will like this one.
In a large pot, add the peeled and cut potatoes. Cover with cold water by 1". Bring to a boil and add about a tablespoon of kosher salt or 1/2 tablespoon of table salt. Cover and reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until fork tender – about 12 to 14 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain the potatoes. Immediately return the hot potatoes to the hot pan and allow the excess water to evaporate.
While the potatoes are simmering, heat a small skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the scallions and cook about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Set aside until needed.
Add the cream cheese to a mixing bowl and beat a few seconds.
Use a ricer or potato masher to mash the potatoes. Transfer the potatoes to the mixing bowl with the cream cheese. Add the scallion/garlic mixture as well as the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter. Beat the potatoes until everything is incorporated – scraping the bowl as needed. Add about 1/2 cup of milk (or half and half or cream), the sour cream, and some salt. Beat until incorporated. If desired, add additional milk – but don't get the potatoes too thin. Add pepper if desired. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Place the potatoes in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
To assemble the boats:
Unwrap one sheet of the dough and unroll it. Use a rolling pin to smooth out the dough and roll it out just a tad thinner. Cut three 5-inch circles out of the dough (I use the lid of a 42 oz oatmeal container as a guide). You may reroll the scraps and make additional circles.
Add 1/3 cup of the cold mashed potatoes to each of the centers of the dough. Lightly brush some water (not too much!) around the outer edge of the dough. Slide your index finger and thumb about 3/4" under the dough on the right side of the circle. Lift up slightly and allow a little of the dough to drop between your index finger and thumb. Squeeze together to form the bow of the boat. Repeat using your left hand on the left side of the circle to form the stern of the boat.
Decoratively pleat the sides of the boat. When finished, the boat should be an oval shape. If desired, you may add some additional mashed potatoes to the top. NOTE: The more potatoes you add, the more likely the boats will spread out (or the pleats will open) during baking. When using extra potatoes, take extra time to make sure your pleats are well sealed. The recipe for my mashed potatoes makes more than you will need for the boats so you should have plenty of extra mashed potatoes left to mound more on the top, if desired.
Repeat this process for the other boats. You may also roll out the second sheet of dough and cut out more boats – making a total of six. After all of the boats have been made, you may place them in a deep dish, cover with plastic wrap, and keep refrigerated until ready to bake. I often do this a couple of hours before my guests arrive for dinner. This way, I only need to throw the boats in the oven when everybody shows up for dinner. This is why this recipe is perfect for small dinner parties.
To bake the boats, preheat the oven to 350F. When the oven is hot, place the boats on a sheet pan (uncovered) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the boats from the oven and top with a small mound of sharp cheddar cheese. Return the sheet pan to the oven and bake 4 minutes longer. Remove the sheet pan one additional time and add some bacon bits to the top. Return to the oven and bake about 3 minutes longer.
When fully cooked, add a small dollop of sour cream or ranch dip on top (if desired) and sprinkle with some chopped scallions. Crisscross a couple of chives on top (to look like oars for the boat). Feel free to warm up any extra mashed potatoes in case people want a second helping of the potatoes.
Posted by Cooking Ventures at 9:51 PM