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Potato Onion Soup, Irish Style


Potato Onion Soup, Irish Style

“During the great potato famine of 1845, many Irish immigrants came to this country with the hope that they could continue to make this wonderful soup,” writes Jeff Smith in “The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors.”

Potato Onion Soup, Irish Style

4 tablespoons butter
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 cups milk
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, whole
1 cup half-and-half
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Roux:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour

Garnishes:
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
6 slices lean bacon, crisply fried and chopped

Heat a 6- to 8-quart stockpot, add the butter and onion, and cook gently. Do not let the onion brown. Add the peeled and sliced potatoes, milk and stock. Add the herbs. Cover and cook gently for about an hour. Prepare a roux: Melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the flour. Let the flour and butter mixture (roux) bubble for 2 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Thicken the soup with the roux, whisking carefully to avoid lumps. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes and then purée the soup in a food processor or blender, if desired. (You could also purée half of the mixture, so you have a variety of textures in the soup.) Add the half-and-half and gently reheat, but do not boil. Season with the salt and pepper. Serve with chopped fresh chives and the crisply fried bacon as garnishes.

This soup can be made with the chopped white part of 5 or 6 large leeks instead of onions. Additional garnishes you can use instead of bacon are chopped prawns or  a small dice of lobster.

To make a vegetarian version, use vegetable stock and leave out the bacon.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Adapted from “The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors” by Jeff Smith

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Potato and Fennel Soup


Fennel adds a suggestion of sweetness and licorice to this easy-to-make soup.

Potato and Fennel Soup

1 onion, peeled and diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced (including fronds, chopped), divided use
2 pints vegetable stock
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

[amazon-product]095381520X[/amazon-product]Sweat the onion and potato in the butter over a very low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add all of the fennel, except for some of the sliced fronds, as well as the stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Purée in a blender, then stir in the cream gently. Adjust the seasonings and serve with fresh chopped fronds as a garnish.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Adapted from “Avoca Cafe Cookbook” by Hugo Arnold with Leylie Hayes

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Papouli’s: Greek Without Fuss


Falafal Pita
Falafel Pita Sandwich

Papouli’s Greek Grill has won fans since its opening several years ago for its simple yet savory Greek fare, ranging from dolmas, or stuffed grape leaves, to its creamy, eggplant-filled moussaka.

A recent lunch visit to the original Forum location showed that all was well in the kitchen in terms of freshness and flavor — and swiftness of service. Though the restaurant was full when we entered, our order at the counter was taken as quickly as possible, and the food appeared in a reasonable amount of time once we sat down.

A cup of Gypsy lentil soup topped with a sprinkle of feta cheese was a great way to begin the meal. Even in these hotter-than-hot days of late, a touch of warm soup can be welcome, especially one enlivened with a good sweet onion base and plenty of hearty lentils.

Food: 3.5
Value: 4

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

If you’d rather go with something cooler, try the Greek salad with its tart, oregano-seasoned dressing and crisp iceberg lettuce tossed with kalamata olives, peppers and tomato.

The Greco-Roman sandwich was stuffed with plenty of crispy-edged gyro meat (a combination of beef and lamb) and topped with a generous helping of garlicky tzatziki sauce. Wrapped around it was a warm, fluffy pita.

A friend scoffed when I ordered the Papouli burger, also wrapped in a pita. But one bite silenced him, thanks to the tangy feta cheese crumbles and acidic tomato slices that gave the burger an extra kick. This isn’t merely a dish for those who refuse to eat something more traditional; it’s a winner in its own right.

Greco-Roman Pita and Greek Salad
Greco-Roman Pita with Gyro and Greek Salad

The falafel sandwich also earned praise for its well-seasoned garbanzo bean patties, but not as much as the fries that accompanied each of the sandwiches. The thick strips of potato were crisp and not greasy in the least, merely full of solid potato flavor.  They disappeared quickly.

The only complaint the whole meal was reserved for the underwhelming couscous that was curiously bland when compared with the richness of the rest of the meal.

It’s easy to see why Papouli’s keeps people coming back for more. Our good impression of the Forum has been bolstered by more than a few enjoyable meals at the Huebner location.

By the way, if you’re pinching pennies, study the menu closely and you’ll find several bargains. During lunch, for example, you can get a small side and a drink for $3 added on to the price of your sandwich. A cup of soup by itself costs more than that.

Papouli’s Greek Grill
8250 Agora Parkway
(210) 659-2244

11224 Huebner Road
(210) 641-1313

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Recipe: Two Bros. Potato Salad


twobrospotatosalad2Mustard powder gives the dressing of Jason Dady’s potato salad an extra kick.

Two Bros. BBQ Market Potato Salad

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/8 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Coleman’s Mustard Powder
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced red onion
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

In large stockpot, cover potatoes with cold water, season the water with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and bring to a simmer.  Be careful not to boil.

Once at a simmer, cook potatoes until soft.  Cook until a knife can skewer all the way through the potato.  It is essential not to overcook the potato.

Once done, remove from water immediately and allow to cool at room temperature.

Once the potatoes are cool, using your hands, break potatoes into bite size pieces in a large mixing bowl.

Add the mayonnaise first.  Toss the potatoes into the mayonnaise and mix well. Once mayonnaise is well incorporated, add the Dijon mustard and Coleman’s mustard powder.  Mix thoroughly. Once mustard is added and mixed in, fold in the onion and celery. Adjust seasoning as needed with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

The potato salad is ready to serve.  It can be served immediately, or chilled and held for up to three days.

From Jason Dady and Two Bros. BBQ Market

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