Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You Do The Mash

I like to think that every meal serves a purpose beyond just keeping us fed and nourished. I especially like to imagine that with every meal we are filling a void or satisfying a craving. A meal has the potential to be much more than sustenance--it can be the missing puzzle piece in your day that, for lack of a better term (my apologies to Tom Cruise) can complete you. Whether it's a craving for fast food, greasy take-out or your favorite mac and cheese, sometimes ensuring that what you eat hits the spot can be the variable that either makes it a great day, or a disappointing one.

I never felt this more than on Sunday night, when after yet another weekend out of the city, I returned home and craved something comforting and homemade. I have to admit that all of these road trips I've been on recently are really taking a toll on my normally (fairly) decent eating habits. Somewhere between the barbecues, pizza parties and post game commiserating, I've found myself wanting the one thing that used to satisfy me the most. Although I always cooked for myself in the years before this blog, I must say that there was less variety in my diet. Part of the reason I started the blog, in fact, was to encourage myself to diversify my cooking habits and skills. I used to rely on steak and potatoes or steak and a salad a few times a week, especially when I was tired or working late. Cooking something I craved was the exception, not the rule, and soon after the blog started my steak dinners fell by the wayside.

Collapsing on my sofa after the rainy Sunday drive back to the city, I was reminded of my pre-blog eating habits. Having feasted on pizza, coffee, donuts and beer all weekend, nothing sounded better to me than those old hearty steak dinners in front of the tv. I figured I shouldn't totally regress and perhaps find an alternative side dish to my normally very rich mashed potatoes and gravy. I decided to do a little crisper clean out and make a parsnip, potato and leek mash instead, and since I was being such a good girl, I topped it off with a pat of butter and a little crispy bacon. It turned out great and was super simple to make. It was also the perfect foil for something like steak, where you can scoop up the mash with a bit of meat. Here's my final (very satisfying) recipe:

Potato, Parsnip & Leek Mash

2 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 small to medium parsnips, peeled, cores removes, diced
1 large leek (white and light green parts only, thoroughly washed, chopped
5 Tbsp butter
1 cup water
1/2 tsp sage
1 Tbsp ricotta cheese
crispy bacon (for garnish)

1. Heat 4 Tbsp butter
in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook covered until softened (not browned) about 8-10 minutes. Add potatoes, parsnips and sage, cooking another minute.

2. Add water, salt and pepper and cook covered until potatoes and parsnips are tender and water has been absorbed (add more water while cooking if necessary).

3. Remove pan from heat and mash mixture. Mix in ricotta and a little water or butter if necessary for texture. Serve topped with remaining pat of butter and crumbled bacon. Enjoy!


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