Real Potato Salad

No personal vendettas against potato salad, but the stuff, all things considered, is pasty goo that I have never been fond of. 

What I am fond of, are very hearty salads with hot and delicious stuff added to them.  Some of the best salads I’ve ever made or have been served contained hot ingredients – from spinach salads with hot currants, duck confit, and andouille sausage to salads filled with fried gnocchi and mushrooms.  The hot-cold combination is amazing, and for some reason, as spring is springing, Aurora and I have been eating this salad like it’s going out of style. 

In a sense, it is going out of style.  Aurora’s jaw surgery is less than 2 weeks away – wired shut for 12 weeks.  I’ll be joining her by doing an old-school “milk diet” for the first month or so.  No salads for us.   

Anyway, we’ve made this salad a half dozen ways over the past month.  In the video, I keep saying that hard-boiled eggs will be added, but in the end Aurora got the eggs and I opted to have my salad without them.  They are part of the “official” salad.  We’ve also made the salad with grilled beef (amazing), beef carpaccio (excellent), and so on.  But no matter how you choose to get down with this full-throttle “dinner salad,” the fried potatoes are a must. 

When done correctly, there is no better salad on earth, or in the words of Mr. Miyagi:

“When do right, no can defense.” 

Here is the REAL potato salad…

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 diced Yukon Gold potatoes fried in coconut oil, beef tallow, lard, or a combination
  • 6 strips bacon
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, still warm
  • 3 ounces of your favorite cheese grated or crumbled
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • 2 chopped Romaine “hearts” 
  • A little arugula or field greens
  • Fresh-picked herbs (optional) 

Prepare as shown in the video, adding your hot ingredients at the very end so the lettuce stays fairly crisp. 

Simplify by making it with just potatoes and cheese and/or a little shopped salami.  Olives would make a nice addition I would imagine.  I also think it’s easier to bake the bacon in the oven on a large sheet pan (with sides), 1-2 packs at a time so you can make this salad several times but only cook the bacon once. 

Beef Wellington

This concludes our month of mega-gourmet filet action.  It’s about time.  Next month I’m going to try to go to the opposite side of the fence with the easiest, quickest, most ghetto food that I make for myself. 

This is definitely the most fancy pants of ’em all.  Beef Wellington is an old-school French preparation made by stuffing beef tenderloin (ideally with foie gras, but we’re not all jillionaires), wrapping it in Puff pastry, and baking it to perfection. It’s not as difficult to make as it seems at first, and can be greatly simplified as well by stuffing it with something simpler.

In the video I decide to stuff the Wellington with grilled asparagus and cream cheese.  I made it again two weeks later with wilted spinach, Cambozola, and cream cheese and it was even better.  If you want something really easy, a little creamy cheese is probably all you need – like Brie or Camembert.   I leave that call up to you. 

To make Wellington you will need:

1) A big hunk of beef tenderloin

2)Something to stuff it with

3) 1 Puff pastry sheet, rolled out pretty thin

4) 1 egg yolk and a splash of water (egg wash)

Then you:

1) Cut it open

2) Stuff it

3) Sear it in hot coconut oil, ghee, or beef tallow

4) Wrap it and egg wash it

5) Bake it.  In this case 425 degrees F made it slightly overdone before the pastry got fully browned. 450 is probably a better temp. – granted, I’m cooking at 6,200′ in elevation which makes a difference. 

If you dare to make this you won’t regret it!  What a treat for a small gathering of 4-6 people! 

Rendering Beef Fat for Tallow

Making beef tallow isn’t exactly a difficult or skillful process.  You are basically exposing solid fat to high temperatures to extract all of the fat in liquid form from the rest of the meat and muscle fibers.  Then you pour off the liquid fat and save it for cooking.  Beef tallow is an excellent fat, and has pearly, ivory-like texture at cold temperatures.  Good for cooking vegetables and searing meats in which you want to impart the rich flavor of beef into the food.  Mmm, mmm good.

In the following video, I do not cut the beef into smaller pieces, which would’ve cut down the cooking time and yielded a larger amount of fat.  Probably a bad habit.  But I got 2 cups of good-quality beef tallow nonetheless. 

As an interesting factoid – beef tallow was the most frequently-used household fat in the early 20th century prior to the earliest documented cases of heart disease.  So much for saturated fat clogging your arteries…

As the causation of heart disease science has evolved over the past couple decades, we now know that heart disease is a disease of inflammation, oxidative damage from free radicals, and certainly not a matter of having something we eat jump into our arteries for lack of a better place to go.  What increases oxidative damage and inflammation?  Lots of things, but mostly polyunsaturated fat – omega 6 in particular, the type of fat we embraced while shunning the beef tallow and butter that never did us any harm.  Make friends with tallow.  Its incredibly low concentration of omega 6 makes it a perfect household fat along with coconut oil and dairy products.

Best temperature is probably slightly lower than the temp. I began with.  350 degrees F is probably better.   

White Truffle Fries

Wow you guys.  I’ve been putting down pound after pound of truffled fries cooked in expeller-pressed “refined” coconut oil.  They are simply incredible when you get them right.  Just make sure if you are dropping ’em in the oven like I do in this video, that the heat is cranked up pretty high.  425 degrees F is a minimum if you want them crispy and downright amazing.  This is seriously one of the best things I’ve made and eaten in my home kitchen in the last year.   Make this for yourself, your significant other, or for a small group of friends and they will have a whole new level of respect for your culinary studliness.  Note: the truffle oil, although amazing, is totally not necessary.  Even without it, a perfectly-cooked homemade Yukon Gold french fry that is properly seasoned is a force to be reckoned with.  Enjoy!

Thai Massaman Curry

Well folks, the time has come to post my most favorite-est thing to eat in the whole world except for, you know, foie gras, lobster, pecan-crusted sweetbreads, creamed corn, and a few other treats. And that chunk of tongue heaven is Massaman curry.

It is a Muslim-influenced curry with extra spices such as cardamom and cloves and less zesty lime juice and Kaffir lime typical of other Thai curries. In Thailand I ate it almost every day for an entire month. This is a great dish to make as a staple in your household, with an incredible and never-gets-old flavor and a fantastic ratio of saturated fat to unsaturated fat – a hallmark of 180-style dining.

Please don’t be deterred by the apparent complexity. Once you’ve made your curry paste you can make a small batch of Massaman curry from scratch in 20 minutes and pour it over a bowl of cold, day-old rice for an amazing meal. Eating healthy certainly can be less complicated than this, but for any food nerd, this is no sweat. Enjoy!

Massaman Curry Paste (big batch – keeps for 3-4 weeks refrigerated)

Ingredients

-2T each: cumin, cardamom, coriander, black pepper (pre-ground or ground fresh in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle as shown in video) 

– Small pinch of whole cloves or ground cloves

– 1 pack of mild red chili pepper from the Mexican food section at the store (add warm water until a paste forms)

– 2 4-inch strips of lemongrass

– Thumb-sized piece of ginger (peeled)

– 3 whole shallots or ½ yellow onion – 2 garlic cloves

– Root end of 1 bunch of cilantro

– 1T cayenne pepper

– Splash of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1) If using whole spices, toast in a frying pan on high heat until smoke starts to roll off of them, then grind into a powder.

2) Chop cilantro, ginger, onion/shallot, and garlic into small pieces. Really cut the lemongrass well, as large pieces often remain fibrous in the curry later on.

3) Blend all ingredients in a food processor for at least 20 seconds. Scrape sides and blend again – the more it’s blended the better. Blend for up to 5 minutes.

4) Stir in a little olive oil at the end to moisten and preserve the curry paste.

 Making Massaman Curry (for 4):

1) Just like making Tom Kha Gai, begin by sautéing on medium heat (sweating) some sliced onion and sliced red bell pepper in ½ stick of butter.

2) When vegetables begin to get soft, but are not yet brown, add several tablespoons of curry paste and toast it on the bottom of the pan, stirring every few seconds. The more you add, the spicier and more powerful the finished product will be.

3) When the curry paste has cooked for a few minutes, add two cups or so of water or chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Heat on high!

4) Add ¼ cup of unflavored peanuts.

5) Next add 2-3 cans of good quality coconut milk depending on how much curry paste you added and how many people you are feeding (Chaokoh, without any emulsifiers like carageenan or guar gum is preferable). You may also add a splash of whipping cream, but that is optional.

6) Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then add chopped raw chicken, whole shrimp, sliced beef, or diced fish. Bring to a boil once more.

7) Season heavily with salt and/or fish sauce and additional cayenne pepper if needed until the flavors come up. Do not use cilantro or a lot of lime at the end like you do with other curries! Massaman should be sweeter and less sour than both Thai soup and other curries, so go easy on the sour flavors such as vinegar and lime juice. Use, at most, the juice of ½ lime at the end.

And here are the Massaman tutorial videos:

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai (or Tom Ka Gai as I’ve seen it spelled) is a Thai coconut soup.  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  It’s fresh.  It’s simple.  It’s awesome.  Plus, the pot I made in this video, with over 1/2 stick of butter, 4-5T of heavy whipping cream, and 3 cans of coconut milk contains about 4,000 calories and a nearly unbeatable ratio of saturated fat to polyunsaturated fat.  Mainstream health might gasp at this, but they need to take a visit to Thailand to see the kind of obesity this soup and other rich curries is causing over there… um, none.   

Nutrition aside, this soup is literally the best soup I’ve ever made and had.  The theme of Thai cooking is to keep the flavors as bright as possible.  Cooking time is meant to be as minimal as possible to preserve the brightness – almost the opposite theme of other ethnic cuisines which rely on long stewing to create deep and subdued flavors. 

Anyway, you can find out more about this soup in 180 Kitchen or in the back issues of the 180 eZine, 180DegreeHealth Report.  It is  a must-make soup.  There’s a reason why a sick woman requested that I make it for her yesterday.  It’s the best thing ever. 

(Note:  At the end of the video I make mention of “my future mother-in-law.”  Don’t worry, I’m not engaged or anything.  Just making a joke… ladies).

Important Note:  Do not eat the lemongrass and ginger chunks.  They are just for flavoring.  It’s kind of annoying to have to pick them out as you eat, but that’s how Thai people do it so get used to it!