Archive for the ‘potato’Category

The Palm serves a mean shepherd’s pie

The Palm Boston exterior
The Palm Boston ( got a new lease on life when the iconic steakhouse moved from Copley Place in Back Bay to the swank One International Place Tower at the edge of the Financial District. Now that the weather has warmed, the restaurant can show off one of its greatest assets: the outdoor seating looking out on the new Seaport District just across Fort Point Channel.

Over the winter, regulars gathered in the glittering interior for wine dinners. We enjoyed the Lafite Wine Dinner that paired a number of wines from the legendary Bordeaux house’s farflung empire with some classic Palm cookery, including seared sea scallops with a pea and truffle purée, ancho- and espresso-rubbed lamb chops, and braised short ribs with a wild cherry drizzle. But The Palm isn’t all expense-account cuisine. Just as the restaurant happily served some of the bargain Lafite wines (like Los Vascos from Chile), chef Karen Mitchell hides a comfort-food heart behind her fine-dining credentials. One of the dishes for which she’s locally famed is the humble North American casserole of meat and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes known as shepherd’s pie.

And like many fine-dining chefs, she’s found a few ways to make the home-cooking classic her own—notably through the superb beef, the splash of hot sriracha sauce, and the cheese that’s melted into the potatoes. And if you didn’t think shepherd’s pie was fit for fancy company, you’ve never seen The Palm serve it in finger-food-size pastry shells as a hot passed appetizer. Here’s Chef Mitchell’s recipe:


Palm shepherd's pie Serves 6-8

4 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup diced onion (1/2″)
1/2 cup diced celery (1/2″)
1/2 cup diced carrot (1/2″)
1/2 cup fresh yellow corn kernels
4 smashed garlic cloves
1 1/2 lb. good quality ground beef (The Palm uses ground prime beef)
1 cup white wine
2 cups beef or veal stock
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons A-1 sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon paprika

For mashed potatoes
3 large Idaho potatoes
3/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
salt (about 1/2 tsp)

1. Sweat onion, carrots, celery, garlic cloves, and corn in canola oil on medium-low heat until tender. Add ground beef and sauté until all pink is gone. Add wine and reduce by three-quarters. Add stock, bay leaves, and sriracha, A-1, and Worcestershire sauces.

2. Cook on medium low heat for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped parsley, salt, and pepper at the very end.

3. Strain the mixture and reserve the juices.

4. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or hotel pan, evenly spread the ground beef mix and put aside.

5. Make whipped potatoes. Boil or steam peeled Idaho potatoes until tender. Heat milk and butter together in a saucepan until combined. (There’s no need to boil the milk mixture.) Add cooked potatoes and, using a stand or hand power mixer, whip the mixture. Add the cheddar, rosemary, and salt to taste.

6. When smooth, spread the potatoes evenly over the ground beef.

7. Sprinkle the paprika over the mashed potatoes. Place pan under broiler for a couple of minutes until the mashed potatoes brown slightly.

If you want to make gravy, use the reserved juice from the ground beef mix, a little more stock, and enough flour to thicken. Ladle over each serving.


04 2015

Top food with a view at Sophie’s, Dublin’s newest

Sophie's at the Dean Hotel in Dublin When it comes to good eating in Dublin, the best choices at the moment seem to be either the self-styled gastropubs or terrific restaurants in some of the hotels. The latest arrival is Sophie’s (33 Harcourt Street, +353 1 607 8100, at the Dean (, a chic new designer boutique hotel. Both restaurant and hotel opened at the beginning of December, so by the time we arrived on New Year’s Eve, chef Darren Mathews (below) had Sophie’s running on all cylinders.

Chef Darren Matthews at Sophie's in Dublin The top-floor restaurant and bar is surrounded on three sides by windows with views of the Dublin rooftops. It’s a spectacular space, with banquettes and some booths lining the perimeter of the room and — in true Irish fashion — a big bar in the middle. You get a peek at the kitchen coming in, and one corner houses the beehive brick oven used for making pizzas. The Dublin weather is right in your face, but the warm interior includes ancient living olive trees as part of the décor, which makes it easy to laugh at pewter skies and order another glass of wine.

There’s definitely a Mediterranean quality to the menu as well — the wait staff set both olive oil and fabulous Irish butter on the table — but Matthews blends Mediterranean and Irish traditions in intriguing ways. For example, he serves a pork chop with mascarpone polenta, sage, and crumbled bacon. And he dips into home cooking for some dishes, like the “smoked potato and sausage soup” sometimes offered as a starter. It was so good that we vowed not to leave the restaurant without getting the recipe. Apparently sensing our resolve, he sat down with us and wrote the recipe into our notebook. He started making the soup at a previous restaurant when he scooped out the centers of baked potatoes to make gnocchi and thought to use the skins in a soup. It’s evolved from there.


Smoked potato and sausage soup at Sophie's in Dublin You might expect potato soup in Ireland, but probably not made with roasted potatoes. Mathews suggests using thick-skinned potatoes and baking them at 450°F until the skins are very, very brown. The flavor changes depending on the type of potato. After experimenting, we like russets best for their pronounced earthy richness. Mathews adds thyme to the potatoes when he makes the recipe at home. He garnishes with mascarpone; we prefer the tang of goat cheese.

Serves 4


500 grams (17.6 oz.) potatoes
50 ml (3.5 tablespoons) olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 liter (34 fl. oz) chicken stock
250 ml (9 fl. oz.) light cream
meat from two links of pork sausage, crumbled
mascarpone or soft goat cheese
1 bunch basil, cut in fine chiffonade
extra virgin olive oil for finishing


1. Chop potatoes and roast at 450°F for 45 minutes or until very brown.

2. Add olive oil to soup pot and sweat onion and garlic over low heat until soft.

3. Add cooked potatoes, stock, and cream. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. In a separate pan, fry crumbled sausage meat, breaking up into small pieces with spatula. Remove from heat and reserve.

5. Process simmered soup in batches in jar blender until smooth. (Immersion blender works but doesn’t yield as smooth a soup.) Return to pot, stir in cooked sausage, and bring back to a simmer.

6. Place rounded tablespoon of mascarpone or goat cheese in each shallow bowl. Ladle in soup and garnish with chiffonade of basil and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


01 2015

Celebrating great dining in Dublin

New Year in Dublin We just returned from Dublin’s New Year’s Festival, celebrated over three days from December 30 through January 1. This was the fourth year of the festival, and the biggest yet. Along with the raucous parade (above), it featured live rock concerts, a Spoken Word Festival of poetry and rap, other music that drew on traditional and classical genres, special museum and gallery shows, and a whole lot of fun.

The Irish know how to celebrate, and it turns out that they have a lot to celebrate year-round with the new Irish cuisine. Ireland has always had the makings of great food — from the sweet vegetables to the succulent meat from animals grazed on its rich green grass to the fish and shellfish from its coastal waters. Now classically trained chefs are embracing their Irish roots and that great Irish provender.

Dining room at Cleaver East in Dublin A case in point is chef Oliver Dunne, who followed up on his Michelin-starred Bon Appétit in Malahide (north of Dublin city center) with Cleaver East (6-8 East Essex Street, Dublin, +353 1 531 3500, It’s inside the Clarence Hotel, just off Wellington Quay on the south bank of the River Liffey in the Temple Bar entertainment district. The hotel is partly owned by Bono and The Edge from the band U2, but to our way of thinking, Dunne is the greater star. He was schooled the old-fashioned way–by cooking in the kitchens of great chefs, including Gordon Ramsay.

Salmon with apple fennel salad at Cleaver East in Dublin When he came home to Ireland to open his own restaurants, Dunne chose to serve simple dishes based on local ingredients in an informal environment. Cleaver East is an Irish interpretation of a bistro. The bar dominates the middle of the room and it’s surrounded on three sides by dining tables, with a few more tables on an upstairs balcony. As big as the bar is, the plates are a far cry from bar food. Dunne is something of a magician. He drew on Irish salmon, crisp apples, and crunchy fennel for a starter that used a touch of lemon and grapefruit to cut the unctuousness of the salmon and give a little bite to the apple-fennel salad.

Great steak at Cleaver East in Dublin He also presented one of the best cuts of beef we’ve enjoyed in a long time — a 7-ounce filet mignon of local beef that had been hung to dry-age for 21 days. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare (as ordered), topped with broiled cherry tomatoes, and accompanied by a cluster of maché. You couldn’t ask for a simpler dish, but it was fit for an Irish king. In keeping with the bistro tradition, he also served a bowl of perfect deep-fried potatoes (“chips” in Ireland, as they are in England).

This being Ireland, after all, you’ll be hearing more about potatoes in future posts.


01 2015

Casablanca puts a deft twist on tortilla española

Casblanca tortillaIn 2005, Tomás and Antonio Casablanca opened Bodeguita Casablanca on a busy little corner near the Puerta de Jerez in Sevilla, Spain. Their creativity with traditional dishes has made them the darling of chefs all over Spain. We first encountered their tortilla al whisky at Dani García’s La Manzanilla tapas bar in Málaga, where he acknowledges Casablanca right on his menu. So our first order of business on getting to Sevilla was to eat lunch at Bodeguita Casablanca. And the first thing we ordered was a tapa of Tortilla al Whisky, shown above. The sauce is made fresh, and carefully cooked so it retains some of the alcohol from the Scotch. And the roasted cloves of garlic on top are both pungent and sweet. This is a dish we hope to replicate, once we’re past the deadlines for the new Frommer’s Spain books. Meantime, you can find Bodeguita Casablanca at Calle Adolfo Rodríguez Jurado, 12, in Sevilla. The phone is 95-422-4114.


02 2014

PEI potatoes make rich cake for dessert

root beer chocolate cakeMy gastronomic adventures on Prince Edward Island were not limited to shellfish. PEI is famous for its potatoes — the tiny island grows more than a quarter of the entire Canadian crop.

PotatoesChef Ilona Daniel of the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown consults for the potato board, which was handing out all kinds of recipes at the PEI Internaional Shellfish Festival. Most of them were predictable — potato gnocchi, potato pancakes, potato pizza, etc. But Daniel came up with this delicious cake that uses mashed potatoes and Greek yogurt to create a dense, moist texture that keeps for days. She was giving away samples, and once I tasted it, I knew I had to get the recipe. I cut the recipe to one-quarter of the one given here, and cooked it in a 6-inch springform pan (see photo above). The results were identical.



1 cup mashed and hot PEI Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 cup water, warm
1 cup full-fat (9%) Greek yogurt
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon root beer extract
4 large eggs
1 cup cocoa
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x13x2-inch baking pan using butter or non-stick oil spray, and dust with cocoa powder. Remove excess cocoa powder and set aside.

2. Whisk mashed potatoes, water, and yogurt until a smooth mixture is formed.

3. Beat butter, brown sugar and root beer extract for 4-5 minutes with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

4. Add 2 eggs and mix until blended, scrape down sides of bowl; add remaining eggs and continue mixing until well blended.

5. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir to combine.

6. At low speed, alternate adding the sifted dry ingredients with the potato mixture into the egg mixture until just incorporated. ****DO NOT OVERMIX. Fold in chocolate chips.

7. Place batter into the prepared pan; smooth out top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cake springs back when pressed lightly and begins to move away from the sides of the pan.

8. Cool in the pan on a cooling rack. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake or drizzle with an icing of your choice.

9. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days in an airtight container. Cake also freezes well


10 2013

PEI: Not your average foodies

Scott LinkletterI can’t say I’ve ever see an island where so many people make or gather or process wonderful food. Between judging duties at the International Shellfish Festival I had the chance yesterday to drive around the island a bit, heading up to the north shore to see a mussel processing operation (more on that later on), pay a visit to a potato farm, catch a picnic in the fields, and visit Raspberry Point oysters. That’s Scott Linkletter at the top of this post, hauling a cage of oysters to show how they’re grown using an Australian system of posts driven into the soft bottom of shallow waters. The cages are suspended on lines that hang on the posts. Every few days he and his staff haul cages out so the sun can dry out any incipient seaweed or mussel growth that would impede the flow of water to the oysters. It’s an ingenious system.

CampbellsI also got a chance to join a picnic being catered by the Pendergast brothers, chef David and baker Richard, at Mull Na Beinne Farm, where Vernon and Bertha Campbell have grown gorgeous PEI potatoes since 1980. Here are the Campbells in front of their giant potato harvester, which is manufacturer in Prince Edward Island. (Yes, there are a LOT of potatoes here.)

Mussel rollsRichard and David put on a great spread that included mussel rolls (mussels and mayo on sourdough finger rolls), a fine chowder, and baked beans with oyster sauce. Then David picked up a guitar (Richard had a fiddle) and played some tunes. Check out this verse of his original, “Campbelltown.”

Tasty start to PEI International Shellfish Festival

lobster chowder2Mussels, oysters, or lobster? It’s hard to choose among them on Prince Edward Island, the small Canadian province with the massive shellfish harvest. This year I’m getting my fill of all of them as a judge of Garland Canada International Chef Challenge. But before the competitions got started on Friday the 13th, I joined 500 other diners for the Feast and Frolic kickoff dinner at the Charlottetown Festival Grounds. Food Network Canada star (and Islander) chef Michael Smith played emcee, and the students of the Culinary Institute of Canada did the cooking. It was an auspicious beginning.

The moderately deconstructed lobster chowder (above) consisted of a celeriac broth with foraged sea asparagus and green swoops of pureed lovage. A butter-poached claw and half-tail of PEI lobster was perched on a slab of perfect PEI potato (a fingerling cut lengthwise in thirds).

0 - salad servingAs Smith gleefully pointed out, locavore dining has always been the rule on PEI, and to drive it home, the salad course consisted of a big bowl of mixed greens and flowers (nasturtium, violas) and lettuce that each table harvested with scissors from planter centerpieces. Ilona Daniel of the Culinary Institute was at my table, so she mixed the dressing and tossed the salad.

Beef and crabBut the capper of the evening was an unusual surf and turf: braised PEI grassfed beef shortrib with some possibly local (I couldn’t find out) snow crab legs and a side bucket of PEI blue mussels. It was a reminder that even a small island like PEI has a resident beef industry, and that while most of us think of snow crab as a northern Pacific species, Islanders do indeed fish for them in the waters north of the island.

Where to eat in Barcelona: Mercat Princesa

Slicing ham in BarcelonaTucked into an out-of-the-way corner of El Born in Barcelona, Mercat Princesa { is the food court to end all food courts. Sixteen small vendors have transformed a nondescript medieval building into a welcoming space with great food at bargain prices. The building dates from the 14th century, and its courtyard has been glassed over to create a central dining space. Just 16 seats ring the area, though plans are afoot to expand into the basement for another 40.

We’d been looking at and eating in restaurants all over Barcelona as we researched Frommer’s Easy Guide to Madrid & Barcelona, due out in November. And apart from the city food markets like La Boqueria and Mercat Santa Caterina, we hadn’t found anything like this little venture.

The offerings are a microcosm of casual Barcelona food. The Bravas Mercat stall sells fried potatoes with eight sauce variants (bravas, aioli, wasabi, etc.). A Nespresso coffee bar also prepares hot chocolate and churros. An oyster bar also cooks mussels and prawns. The charcuterie specialist (pictured above) serves plates of cheese or plates of Iberian ham. Right next to him a sushi chef prepares sashimi to order. A noodle bar has everything from Vietnamese soups to Catalan fideùs — a paella-like dish made with noodles. One bar just does different rice dishes. Pepe Fritz specializes in deep-fried Andalucían fish dishes. The Vins & Cocktails stall sells beer and wine. There’s even a pastry and ice cream case in case you find room for dessert.

The Mercat Princesa is at Carrer Flassaders, 21 (tel: 93-268-15-18, It’s open every day from 9 a.m. until midnight (until 1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday). Nearest Metro stop is Jaume I.


08 2013

Tortilla española at both ends of the day

tortilla morningFew dishes are as versatile as the potato omelet served in Spain. Consisting of little but eggs, potato, onion, and olive oil, it is a recipe passed down in the genes of Spanish cooks. That every one tastes different is a mystery.

This morning, as we set out researching the Barcelona chapter for Frommer’s Easy Guide to Madrid and Barcelona, we decided to have breakfast the La Boqueria – technically Mercat Sant Josep, but only called that by city bureaucrats. It is the jewel of Barcelona’s three dozen local food markets.

All the way in the back, where the market comes out on Carrer Jerusalem, is La Gardunya (C/ Jerusalem, 18, tel: 93-302-43-23), one of the oldest and most venerable of the market restaurants. Contrary to what most people think, it’s open for breakfast as well as the more famous lunch and dinner operation. We sat in the “garden” where we could watch the vendors delivering all manner of fresh food to the stalls, and ate classic tortillas españolas made fresh and served with a side of pa amb tomaquet – slices of baguette rubbed with raw tomato, sprinkled with salt, and drizzled with olive oil. It’s a classic Catalan dish. The bread was part of the tortilla service – less than 4 euros.

torttilla jordi portrait At the end of the day, we discovered a brand new restaurant at the Hotel Adagio in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter: Adagiotapas (C/ Ferran, 21, tel: 93-318-90-61). It’s a pretty daring venture for the modest hotel, as the menu is from Jordi Herrera, a chef whose other restaurant in Barcelona’s L’Eixample district near Sagrada Familia, Manairo, was awarded a Michelin star this year.

We happened to run into Herrera at Adagiotapas, and he couldn’t have been nicer. The concept is simple. He reinterprets some of the great tapas of Spain with his own creative twists. For example, instead of ham croquettes, he serves delicious rabbit croquettes encrusted with shredded phyllo and accompanied by a few dabs of ratatouille.

tortilla eveningAs for the tortilla española – which is usually served as a small slice for a tapa – Herrera makes a super intense tortilla. (We think he may use a little pork fat along with the olive oil and he certainly caramelizes the onion). He then finishes it in the oven as a small tart cooked in a cupcake paper. It is the perfect foil for either a glass of white wine from Rueda, or a Campo de Borja rosé. We couldn’t help but smile when our server brought us a plate of pa amb tomaquet.

Same ingredients – perfect at either end of the day.


07 2013

Remembering Italy — first with Montasio cheese

With the advent of short days and cold nights, menu planning in my house switches from summer vegetables to the heartier foods of winter. So when the Legends from Europe promotional team ( through Boston last week and bequeathed me a small cache of Montasio, Grana Padano, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses and a few precious ounces each of San Daniele and Parma prosciuttos, I started recreating some of the great dishes I remember eating in northern Italy. I’m sharing them on the site as a series of four courses. All five products are registered under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) program – a guarantee of regional authenticity. Accept no substitutes! So-called “parmesans” from Wisconsin or Argentina may be tasty cheeses, but they are not Parmigiano Reggiano by a long shot.

Of the products in the consortium, Montasio cheese is the least well known in the U.S. It is a distinctive aged cow’s milk cheese made in the foothills of the Alps in northeast Italy. It hails from the northern section of the Veneto and from the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. I was really pleased to get my hands on some to recreate one of my Friulian favorites, frico con patate.

The simplest way to make frico is to fry grated Montasio until it begins to crisp and serve it as a lacy wafer with a glass of white wine as a snack or an appetizer. But in Friuli, people like to add potato and onion to make a hearty eggless “omelet” like the one detailed below. I served it last week with slices of the last remaining garden tomato that’s been ripening on a counter since I rescued it from frost just before Halloween.


Serves 2 as an appetizer


1 teaspoon olive oil
1 bunch scallions, white and pale green portions, thinly sliced
1 medium waxy potato (red bliss or yellow Finn), peeled and coarsely grated
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Montasio cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt


Add olive oil to a non-stick omelet pan and place over medium heat.

Combine half the scallions with grated potato and add to omelet pan. Sprinkle salt over mixture. Cook, turning frequently with spatula, until potato is cooked through.

Combine remaining scallions with cheese. Sprinkle over potato and cook without stirring over low heat until Montasio melts and forms a lightly browned crust on bottom – about 10 minutes. Loosen edges with spatula and turn over to brown other side about 3 minutes.

Blot excess oil and divide in half to serve.


12 2012