Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just In Time To Practice for Thanksgiving!

For real. You can serve these alongside a turkey and people will love them.

Speaking of which, if you're cooking for Thanksgiving and you've never in your life cooked for Thanksgiving, get in a practice turkey or at least a turkey breast before the Big Day. Should we cover that in the next few weeks?

Here's a dirty little secret of Thanksgiving dessert - a can of plain pumpkin and a saucepan of painstakingly cooked-down fresh pumpkin look and taste EXACTLY the same. The difference is that cooking down fresh pumpkin takes a good 3 hours longer. If using the fresh pumpkin fulfills a spiritual need within you, have at it. I'll nap and meet up with you later with my can opener.

Anyway, todays Learn To Cook/No-Fuss recipe is Mustard-Roasted Potatoes! A friend brought amazing roasted potatoes to a dinner for the homeless. Heartless heathen that I am, they smelled so good that I discreetly helped a teensy piece of potato off the tray and had a taste. Phenomenal. And it sent me on a quest to find a better roasted potato recipe than the one I had, and I landed on this one. Since it is a holiday recipe, it's written to serve ten. In other words, double the quantities (but NOT the cooking time) for a crowd.

Mustard-Roasted Potatoes
Serves 5
Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup whole grain Dijon mustard (plain will work, but whole grain is better)
1 Tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon butter, melted (hint on this below)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced (one for a mild flavor, two for a more assertive garlic flavor. If you're not an experienced cook, do one and know that, next time, you can add more if you wish)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel - I don't measure this, really. I zest half a lemon and figure it's fine.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds tiny unpeeled potatoes, cut in half

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. If you don't have/don't want to use a microwave to melt the butter, just put 1 tablespoon butter in a large non-plastic bowl. Set the bowl on the stovetop; the heat of the oven will melt the butter. And if you don't use a bowl, it'll melt all over the stovetop.

2. Spray a large, rimmed cookie sheet with nonstick spray.

3. In the bowl where you melted the butter (aren't you energy conscious??), add the mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, lemon peel, and salt. Use a fork or spoon to stir it briskly and combine everything.

4. Add the potatoes to the bowl, and give them a few stirs. Your goal is to have every side of every potato have some contact with the seasoning. Try scooping from the bottom, stirring, and scooping again - then stir in the other direction.

5. Place the potatoes - but NOT the extra seasoning liquid - on the baking sheet, and spread them out so that none of the potatoes are touching. This will let them crisp up.

6. Put them in the oven and let them cook for 20 minutes.

7. After 20 minutes take them out, turn the cookie sheet around so that the left side is now on the right and vice-versa. Put them back in the oven for another 25 minutes. Check them at 22 minutes - if they're crispy outside and tender inside, they're done.

I once served these with a roasted chicken and the Creamed Spinach Au Gratin from last week - it was a warm, tasty, terrific meal.

Happy cooking!

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