Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Newberry Sandwiches, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Sorry for my silence over the weekend. I went to Rochester, NY with my family to visit my daughter who's in college, so I didn't do any cooking. We got back yesterday and went out for dinner. So, today was my first day back in the kitchen after a few days off.

Years ago (nay, decades; in fact, it was the past millennium) when I was in high school, a group of my friends (including my now wife, Vicki) and I frequented a little bistro in Richfield called The Pantry. It was located at 76th and Lyndale Avenue S.; the same building now houses Naviya's Thai Kitchen. They had great hot chocolate, French onion soup, burgers, and an open-faced sandwich we loved called the Newberry - a piece of crusty bread covered with sliced turkey, slathered with cranberry sauce, topped with Swiss cheese and broiled. It's comfort food, good for a night like tonight with sleet and snow blowing around outside.

Newberry Sandwiches
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans

Newberry Sandwiches
(per person:)
1 large or 2 medium slices of crusty white bread (I like Vienna bread)
several slices of turkey breast
1-2 T jellied cranberry sauce, mashed with a fork to loosen
1-2 slices of Swiss cheese

Turn on the broiler and place the rack in the middle of the oven (not too close to the broiler). Place the bread on a baking sheet and toast lightly on one side under the broiler. Watch carefully - it will burn easily. Flip the bread over and lightly toast the other side. Top each slice with turkey breast, layering it in folds to create texture. Spread cranberry sauce over the turkey - add more or less to taste. Top with enough cheese to cover the whole sandwich. Return to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly and just starting to brown. Serve immediately.

I use canned cranberry sauce most of the time, but you can, of course make your own. Here's a simple recipe (I make this every Thanksgiving...it's well-worth the work): 1 lb. fresh cranberries, 2 c. sugar, 2 c. water, a pinch of cloves, and a pinch of cinnamon. Bring everything to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the cranberries have popped and are falling apart - 20 minutes or longer. Better to over-cook than under-cook. Press the pulp through a food mill, or use a fine-meshed sieve. Press as much of the juice through as possible. Discard the seeds and pulp. Chill the sauce in a mold or other container. No gelatin is required - the pectin in the cranberries will firm it up beautifully. If they don't set, you didn't cook them long enough. You could easily halve this recipe and freeze the unused berries for later use.

Mashed Potatoes
(per person)
1 medium Yukon Gold or russet potato, peeled and quartered
about 1 tsp. butter
1-2 T half-and-half
freshly ground pepper

Place the potatoes in a saucepan large enough that water completely covering them only comes up 2/3 of the side of the pan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-low and slow-boil until tender. Drain completely, add butter and half-and-half. Grind a generous amount of pepper over them, and sprinkle in a generous pinch of salt. These are all per-person amounts. Mash with a potato masher. Taste for salt and texture. If they're dry, add a bit more half-and-half. Don't be afraid of fat! I believe in using the real thing and eating in moderation. However, a delicious substitute for the butter and half-and-half is low-fat yogurt - give it a try. Don't use margarine EVER, and don't use fat-free half-and-half...what the heck is fat-free cream? Use real ingredients all the time, or just don't make the dish.

A comment on mashed potato texture. People have varying tastes for lumps in mashed potatoes. I personally love to have some chunks of unmashed potato in the mix. However, if a pure, smooth texture is your desire, use a potato ricer rather than a hand-mixer or other power-utensil. Over-working the starch can produce glueyness...never pleasant.

Green Beans
(per person)
2-3 oz. (about 1/3 c.) fresh green beans, ends trimmed, and halved

If you read my Walleye dinner post last week, you know my method for cooking broccoli. The same goes for green beans. Put just enough water in a saucepan to cover the beans (but don't add the beans yet). Add enough salt such that the water tastes as salty as sea water. Make sure you are dissolving the salt completely before tasting so you don't over-salt. If you accidentally add too much, add a little more water to dilute it. Bring to a boil, add the raw beans, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes, to desired tenderness. I cooked mine for about 12 minutes tonight, but timing will vary with the freshness of the beans. I like them a bit al dente, but don't under-cook them...they shouldn't crunch. Also, the flavor will develop more fully if they're more done. Beans are more forgiving than broccoli and won't be as easy to over-cook.

Drain and serve ASAP. Do not rinse! No butter or other flavor enhancers required; you'll love them just like this.

The potatoes will take the longest, and can sit the longest while other items are getting done. For this reason, I do them first, and while they're cooking prep the rest. You can toast the bread for the sandwiches while the potatoes are cooking. When the potatoes come off the stove, put the beans on. While the beans are cooking, mash the potatoes, then broil the sandwiches. Everything will be hot and done at the same time. The whole meal, starting with peeling potatoes, took me 45 minutes, and there was a lot of down time.

Nothing complicated tonight. I reprised the technique for cooking fresh green veggies in salted water, and we talked about mashing potatoes. This is a fast, delicious meal that's easy to make.

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