Baked Mashed Potatoes with Bacon and Parmesan

My first encounter with mashed potatoes was when I was about 5 years old. It came in a box, with multiple little cup-a-noodle-like cups. I loved the the idea that pouring hot water on salty flakes would transform them in flavorful clouds. But of course, these really weren’t mashed potatoes. I was ok with that.

It took me a while to understand how a potato could possibly become flakes. Then it was slighlty mind blowing to realize that you actually mashed potatoes. You’d think I was a slow kid… but I still managed UCSD somehow…

This is my secret mashed potato recipe. Its really not that big of a secret, but it is pretty legendary. It starts with potatoes boiling on a pot. Bacon is then lightly cooked, until an irresistible golden brown. Once the potatoes are soft, they are drained and mashed. The bacon, and all of its grease (and some more butter when I’m feeling naughty) is added in. I then add in cheese, a dash of salt and pepper.

After being transferred to a greased baking dish (lined with foil of course), its sprinkled with bread crumbs and more cheese. My favorite part about this is the fact that this can be prepared early in the morning before everything else and then baked right before dinner begins while the turkey is resting.

Along with the Stuffing this is one of those recipes that is enjoyed by the entire family. I’ve made this for thanksgiving 4 years in a row now, and 2 more times during christmas. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with this. In fact, this `will be my only recipe that is not changing this holiday season.

Baked Mashed Potatoes with Bacon and Parmesan

Adapted from Foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 stick butter (optional)
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided use
  • 8 oz bacon cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 if you are baking right away. Spray a 13 by 9 inch pan with pam. Set aside.
  2. Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook potatoes until very tender, about 15 minutes. While the potatoes are boiling, fry bacon until golden brown.
  3. Drain potatoes and return to pan. Mash well. Mix the bacon, bacon grease, and bacon bits into the potatoes and mix. Add in butter if you are using it along with the milk. Stir to combine. Stir in mozzarella and 3/4 cup of parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Transfer potatoes to baking dish. Combine the remaining parmesan and bread crumbs and cover the mashed potatoes with the mixture. At this point you can let this rest for up to 6 hours which is what I do.
  5. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

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Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Bacon

It’s hard to get everyone on the same page on Thanksgiving. I mean… for some people its hard enough trying to prevent the room from blowing off.

Imagine 15 people sitting around a dinner table, expecting a delicious meal put together by 1 person, each nit-picky and not accustomed to Western flavor profile. That is my family.

What I love about stuffing, and specifically this stuffing, is that there is a little bit of something for everyone at the table. My uncle loves the chestnuts, my aunt loves the vegetables, the older sibling you never really wanted (yes, I’m talking about you Peter) can’t stop picking at the bacon – this is my “one dish” that everyone loves, that is always requested.

I started the recipe by removed the extra used in the dish and relied on bacon grease. Because pancetta was difficult to find, I sautéed the vegetables in the bacon grease. From that point forward, it’s just a matter of combining all the remaining ingredients until well combined and forming a delicious bowl of stuffing.

I’m often asked why I don’t stuff my turkey instead of serving it on the side. To be quite honest, it started because my aunt was usually in charge of the turkey and I the remaining dishes. After carefully studying Alton Brown’s Thanksgiving menu, I’ve come to learn that the tasty turkey juices that seep into the thanksgiving stuffing can also seep into your stomach and make you vomit.

Although I emphasize that 161 F is indeed a safe temperature for roasting a turkey, in order for the stuffing to reach the 161, the remaining turkey has to reach high temperatures that would dry the breast and legs out – not good eats. On the other hand, while a meat thermometer might register the meat as cooked, the stuffing may be under the Alton Brown recommended 161 and filled with salmonella juices.

Another note that I have is the fact that this is indeed technically called “dressing” instead of stuffing. But lets be real, with a family that has an heavy asian influence like mine, calling this dressing might actually convince them that I’m serving bread, chestnuts, and bacon with a bowl full of ranch.

Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Bacon

Adapted from Foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bacon, cut into1 inch pieces
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 (7.4-ounce) jars roasted peeled whole chestnuts, coarsely broken
  • 1 pound day-old ciabatta bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, beaten to blend

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9 dish with pam.
  2. Gently fry bacon until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a large bowl. Add the onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and garlic. Saute until the onions are very tender, about 12 minutes. Gently stir in the chestnuts. Transfer the onion mixture to the large bowl with the bacon. Add the bread and Parmesan and toss to coat.
  3. Add enough broth to the mixture to moisten. Season the stuffing, to taste, with salt and pepper. Mix in the eggs.
  4. Transfer the stuffing to the prepared dish. Cover with foil sprayed with pan, and bake until the stuffing is heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.

Baked Avocado Fries

Summer is supposed to be coming to an end. Supposed to be. If theres one thing you should know about me is that I love the winter. I love the winter because I consider anything above a 75 to be hot. I love it when its 65 degrees out. It’s like heaven. So you can only imagine how I feel when La Jolla is in its high 80s… especially after it was able to maintain most of summer in the high 70s.

Most people wouldn’t deep fry anything in this summer heat. It’s the time for grills, barbecues, and bonfires right? Wrong! When cravings strike, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Well I never expected to crave avocado fries in the middle of this heat. I never expected to crave fries in summer in general. But of course, an avocado craving strikes. I tried taming my tastebuds by cutting open an avocado and eating it with some sea salt and a spoon. I thought that would tame my tastebuds but it didn’t. I guess it didn’t help that avocados went on sale at my local market… I couldn’t help myself.

I remember having this recipe tabbed. I was a little scared at first, but went with it anyways. All I can say is – I’m glad I did. The resulting avocado is very buttery and mellow in flavor – I recommend serving it with a flavorful aioli or (follow along me) some hummus.

Baked Avocado Fries

Adapted from Baked In

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe (but not overripe) avocados
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs, substitute with regular if you must
  • 2 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on the sheet. Set aside.
  2. Cut each avocado in half and remove the pit. I removed the pit by hitting the bit with the sharp side of my chef’s knife and twisting gently. The pit should come right out, attached to the blade.
  3. Prepare three bowls. In the first bowl, place the 1/2 cup of flour and add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. In the second bowl, crack the eggs and beat lightly. In another last bowl, combine the panko and melted butter and combined. Then, add garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
  4. Dredge each avocado slice through the flour, and then the beaten egg. Coat thoroughly with the panko and place on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining slices. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Alternatively place the avocado fries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until panko is lightly browned. Cool for about ten minutes and serve with dipping sauce of choice.

 

Fast Focaccia Recipe

Only I would decide to add an unplanned appetizer to an unplanned dinner about 3 hours ahead of time. And of course I would choose something that requires time to rise. And of course it’d be something that I’ve never learned about in the past.

This past Saturday was the first time I saw my friends since finals week here on campus and I decided it’d be a great idea to celebrate with French Macarons, and a simple carbonara.

But of course, I couldn’t serve a pasta dish by itself. I wanted to make a flat bread for my guests to enjoy with their pasta. Given any other crowd, or any other day I would have went ahead and made my famous garlic bread. I had to break to norm. My crowd was one that was used to my wacky concoctions, sometimes more successful than others.

So I clicked through the internet, did the research, jotted down some notes, and I came up with this.

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Onion-ring Eggs

I don’t get to go home a lot. This past week was my first time home in six months after being buried in what seems like mountain loads of work back at school. But I wasn’t particularly excited to go back and experience the LA heat for the coming summer. I was even less excited to think about how bored I was going to be. I was, however, excited to get a chance to finally see my little sister for the first time in six months. I was more excited to be able to make these eggs with her

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

To be honest, I don’t like cherry tomatoes. I hate them. They’re probably one of my least favorite ways to eat a tomato. Something about their almost sweet and tangy taste, it just doesn’t do it for me. I spent over half my childhood being force fed these tomatoes raw. I never thought that my feelings for cherry tomatoes would change

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Photo Guide: Braided Garlic Bread

I’m back again with another photo guide; this time for my braided garlic bread! Today I wanted to share some pictures from the bread making process so you all can know what your dough should look like. I’m really excited to finally debut this entry because I’ve been buzzing about my “photo guide” series for a while. This was a joint effort between my roommate, Shawn and myself.

When I’m crunched for time I like to speed up my kneading process by turning up the oven to the lowest temperature so the heating element is warmed and the entire oven is toasty. Then, I turn the oven off and let it cool down slightly and use the residual heat in the elements to speed the proofing process up.

When I have the time, I let the bread take its time to rise so I can develop some nice flavors in the bread dough as the yeast breaks the gluten and sugar down.

In my kitchen, I always keep a jar of Active Dry Yeast in the refrigerator so I can whip up some bread when I’m craving some carbs. I sprinkle the yeast on top of warm sugary water and then stir to let it dissolve. The water should be heated so that its very warm, but you should still be able to submerge your hands in the water without wanting to pull them out. If you aren’t sure, keep it on the cooler side. By heating the water up, the yeast becomes active faster. I usually end up with some clumps, which is fine because they dissolve after letting it sit for a minute. You want to let it become nice and foamy which usually takes about 5 minutes. This is the “proofing” process.

Just to save some time I get started on the flour and spices while my yeast proofs. I find that tossing the spices together with my hands tenses to be more efficient than using a dough hook. I promise I washed my hands before hand! I like to add my oil into the flour ahead of time because it is a lot easier to combine chunks of flour and oil with water than it is to add oil to dough. This technique is also used in the Japanese Water-Roux technique –it is said that adding part of the liquids into the flour actually helps the water to be absorbed more evenly. Make sure you use bread flour because it will make kneading a lot easier. The higher gluten content makes for faster kneading times a better “crumb”.

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Guacamole

I remember growing up hating everything about an avocado–taste, smell, texture and everything in between. Recently, I’ve developed a love for guacamole. I think it has to do with the lime that brings out the flavor of the avocado.

I like to eat this guacamole with almost anything. Sometimes I’ll add it to my cheese quesadilla, other times I just grab a bag of tortilla chips. Guacamole is not only healthy, but also delicious! Try this recipe out for yourself and hopefully you will be able to share my love for it too.

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