BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

Spicy Sweet Potato Latkes

  • Prep Time 30 minutes
  • Cook Time 25 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $7
  • 26 Comments

When it comes to traditional Jewish food, people love to grouse about how it's really only worth eating when it's made traditionally. These are the same people who wax poetic about how it's impossible to find a good bagel outside of New York. "It's the water," they'll tell you. "You can't replicate New York City water."

Well I live in San Francisco and my water comes from the Hetch Hetchy dam, and it somehow produces Marla Bakery's bagels, which are the best I've ever had, in or outside of New York City. And speaking of defying tradition, I also happen to prefer sweet potato latkes to traditional potato ones.

I have no problem with traditional potato latkes, lest you accuse me of betraying my Eastern European roots. But if you follow my blog, you know that just about any time I can replace a regular potato with a sweet potato I'll do it without shame. And while I love the idea of a crispy potato, I love the idea of the crispy sweet, earthy depth of a sweet potato even more.  

And of course, because I can't just shred sweet potatoes, fry them in oil, and call it a day, I have to add a little flavor, and, yes, a little heat. I'm bring the heat to these latkes with straight up sriracha (though you could use your favorite hot sauce), and my new favorite ingredient, sweet-hot chilies, also known as peppadews. I buy them where I buy almost everything else, Trader Joe's, but they can usually be found in jars or at the olive bar of well-stocked grocery stores.

I hand-shred (feel free to use a food processor, but I think hand-grated potatoes get crispier) my sweet potatoes (and one Russet potato, to give it some starch, which helps make for crispy latkes), right onto a clean dish towel. I salt them to release their moisture (essential), and then gather up the corners of the dish towel and squeeze the daylights out of it.

Then I add sriracha for more spice (I eyeball it, but start with one tablespoon and go from there) green onions for freshness, pepper, the sweet-hot chilies, eggs, and flour. And yes, you may use gluten-free flour. Either GF all-purpose, or coconut flour, which adds a nice background flavor which complements the sweet potato.

It's important to mix well between each step. I use my hands or a wooden spoon. Then, once the mixture is well incorporated, I form nice little patties. 

It's important to fry the latkes in a decent amount of oil. Like, more oil than you think you need. It's not deep-frying, exactly, but it's not...not deep-frying. Remember, we're celebrating the miracle of the oil, here

It's tempting to crank up the heat and really sear them, but medium-heat oil is best. It cooks the latkes evenly and thoroughly. It's important to let time do the work. 

Draining the latkes well helps make for an even crispier exterior. 

Keeping them warm in the oven encourages even more crispness, so these can even be made ahead. Just make sure you don't stack them--stacking leads to sogginess, and that is the antithesis of what we're looking for here.

Then just plate 'em up, put out bowls of applesauce and sour cream (see recipe for details), and crank up your favorite Hanukkah tunes (this year it's this song by Rachel Bloom, on repeat). Happy Hanukkah!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, shredded (leave the skin on) $1.50
  • 1 medium Russet potato, shredded (leave the skin on) $0.50
  • 1 teaspoon salt Pantry
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper Pantry
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha (or more to taste) Pantry
  • 5 green onions, chopped (green and white parts) $1 for a bunch
  • about 8 sweet-hot chilies (also known as peppadews), chopped $2.50 for a jar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten $1.50 for 6
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour Pantry
  • vegetable, peanut, grapeseed, or coconut oil, for frying Pantry

Recipe Serves 6-8

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
  2. Spread the shredded potato and sweet potato on a clean dish towel.
  3. Sprinkle with the salt, and let sit for 10 minutes (this helps release the moisture in the potatoes, which yields a crisper latke). 
  4. Gather up the corners of the dish towel, hold over a sink, and twist to squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the potatoes.
  5. Transfer the potatoes to a mixing bowl.
  6. Add the pepper, sriracha, green onions, and chilies and mix well with your hands or a wooden spoon.
  7. Stir in the eggs and mix well
  8. Stir in the flour and mix well.
  9. Cover a couple of large baking sheets with paper towels, newspaper, or parchment paper. Set near the stove.
  10. Pour 1/2 inch of oil into a large non-stick or cast iron frying pan (or 2, if you are cooking a large batch and want to speed things up). I know it seems like a lot, but you'll need it. 
  11. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees (if you don't have a thermometer, let the oil heat up until you think it's hot enough, then make a little test latke. If it browns nicely, it's ready).
  12. Wet your hands with cool water, then form a little patty, using about 1/4 cup latke batter. Press it together in your palm to make sure it's cohesive.
  13. Carefully slide the patty into the bubbling oil.
  14. Working in small batches (you really don't want to overcrowd the pan), repeat with the remaining batter. Depending on the size of your pan, you'll likely cook 5-6 latkes at a time.
  15. Cook the latkes for 2-3 minutes per side, or until they are golden-brown and crispy. Don't be tempted to turn up the heat and rush the process--you'll get latkes that are burnt on the outside and raw inside. Add more oil as necesary.
  16. Once the latkes have finished cooking, transfer them with a spatula to the prepared baking sheets. Once the sheets have filled up, transfer them to the oven to keep them hot.
  17. Serve the latkes hot with applesauce (my go-to is my Orange-Cardamom one) and sour cream (I added a touch of lime juice to my sour cream and it was lovely).  

Perfect Piecrust

  • Prep Time 5 minutes plus 1 hour refrigeration
  • Estimated Cost $3
  • 27 Comments

Welp, I am going to delcare it officially pie season.

I have no problem with storebought piecrust (the kind from Marie Callender's is actually pretty great), but it cannot be overstated that there is just nothing like a homemade piecrust. 

Whether you're making pot pie, empanadas, quichesweet fruit pie, tomato pie, or a custard-filled cream pie, it's cheaper and frankly more delicious to make piecrust at home. And if you have a food processor, it's actually pretty darn easy.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you make piecrust:

1. Have your ingredients totally measured and ready before you start mixing. There are only 4 ingredients in this recipe including the ice water, so this shouldn't be hard. The recipe moves quickly, so you'll want to have everything right there.

2. The colder the better. The cardinal rule of piecrust making colder your butter and ice water, the flakier your crust will be when it bakes. I always keep the butter in the refrigerator until the moment I'm ready to use it, and I start icing down the water well in advance so it has a chance to get really chilly.

3. A food processor is helpful but not required. Home cooks made flaky, buttery pie crusts for centuries before Cuisinart came to town. That said, if you can get your hands on a food processor, it sure makes piecrust making easy.

4. Handle your pie crust gently and quickly. Warm hands warm up the butter, and that is bad. Work fast and use a tender touch to keep this from happening.

I start by combining flour, a pinch of salt and (super cold) butter.

I get the ingredients mixing until they look like buttery sand.

Next the cold water goes streaming in, a little at a time.

Until the dough starts to stick together.

Then onto a floured surface it goes, to be tamed.

At this point, I wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour. Once that's done, it may be rolled out.

This recipe makes enough for two open pies or one pie with a top.

Just trim the excess and re-roll. 

Make pretty, decorative pleats if you wish. Then pre-bake (if necessary for your pie recipe) or simply fill, bake, and serve. 

 

 If you're as corny as I am, you might say it's easy as pie.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolliing Pantry
  • 2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes $3
  • 1 large pinch salt Pantry
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water

Recipe Serves 6-8

Directions

 
  1. Put the flour, butter, and salt in a bowl of a food processor (or in a mixing bowl).
  2. Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse sand. If you're working by hand, use your hands to work the ingredients together until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  3. Stream in the water with the machine running, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the mixture comes together. For me, this usually means 3 to 4 tablespoons. Again, if you're doing this by hand, work in the water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture starts to stick together.
  4. Dump the dough onto a floured surface.
  5. With floured hands, pat it into a circle about 6 inches in diameter.
  6. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour. You may also freeze it for up to 2 months. When you're ready to use it, defrost it in the fridge overnight.
  7. Once the dough has been refrigerated for at least an hour, it's ready to be rolled, filled, and baked.

 
 

 

Pastrami Bacon

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 25 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $13.50
  • 18 Comments

When we got engaged this summer, Evan's parents decided to throw us a party in Wisconsin. A few weeks before our visit, they called to ask what kind of food we wanted for the party. Evan had one thing to say:

"All I want is a big kosher pastrami sandwich on rye." His parents were on it.

After much discussion of what kind of pastrami, and which brand of rye, we quickly discovered that it's actually not so easy to find kosher pastrami in Mequon, Wisconsin. His parents called local grocery stores to no avail, and even contacted a synagogue, but no such luck. Eventually they decided to do what we all do when we can't find the thing we're looking for: order it online.

They landed on the website for Grow and Behold, a company committed to pasturered, kosher meats. Knowing their son's appetite for pastrami, they ordered enough to feed a small village.  

When we arrived at their home, Evan made a beeline for the freezer to check out the goods. It was indeed pastrami, but it was also about 50% fat. 

That beef fat, which is actually delicious on hot pastrami, where it gets a little melty and is very flavorful, wouldn't be very good on the cold sandwich Evan had been envisioning. It would be flaccid and rubbery.

The party was still wonderful (no fatty pastrami could keep that from happening), and when it was all over, his parents put us on a plane with the leftover pastrami (hopefully the people on our plane enjoyed the meaty aroma wafting from row 23). They also arranged for the company to send us a second, hopefully improved, shipment of the pastrami to make up for the first one they sent. 

We received it.

It was also a bit too marbled for our taste.

But it got me thinking: the pastrami didn't look too different from raw bacon in that it was mostly fat. And with bacon, the idea is to render that fat until most of it melts away and you're left with crispy pieces of meat.

So I mixed up my trusty bacon spice mix of smoked paprika, brown sugar, pepper, and smoked salt.

And sprinkled it all over the pastrami slices.

I baked them for about 15 minutes, then flipped them, and baked them for another 7 or so. After draining them on paper towels, the results were, as i'd hoped, pretty much like pork bacon.

We ate it with scrambled eggs and garlicky spinach for breakfast. 

And since we now have about 47 pounds of this pastrami left in the freezer, we know it won't be long before we can make it again. 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar Pantry
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika $1.50 for 1 ounce
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt (or regular salt) $2 for 3 ounces
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper Pantry
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced pastrami, ideally with some fat $10

Recipe Serves 4

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  3. Combine the brown sugar, paprika, smoked (or regular) salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Stir well to combine.
  4. Arrange the sliced pastrami on top of the foil, making sure not to overlap them. If necessary, start a second pan.
  5. Sprinkle the spice mixture all over the top of the pastrami slices, coating evenly.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, until the pastrami is mostly crisp.
  7. Use tongs to flip each piece of pastrami.
  8. Return to the oven, and bake for another 6-8 minutes, until very crisp.
  9. Drain the pastrami bacon on paper towels.
  10. Serve hot.

Category: Meals

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Brown Butter Pumpkin Cauliflower Gratin

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Cook Time 1 hour
  • Estimated Cost $11.50
  • 35 Comments

Recently, I read a recipe for a lightened-up mac and cheese, where half of the pasta had been replaced by cauliflower. I was intrigued. I'm not eating a ton of pasta these days, so I figured I'd give it a go using 100% cauliflower. And why not try it with my trusty brown butter-pumpkin combo?

My Brown-Butter Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is probably my most-searched recipe. I invented it a whopping five years ago, when I was looking for a way to lighten up some mac and cheese (read: eat mac and cheese more often), and so I added some canned purreed pumpkin to a cheese sauce. The resulting mac was creamy and cheesy, but the addition of pumpkin meant I needed significantly less cheese to make enough sauce to coat my pasta. It also added some much-appreciated fiber, along with its rich, nutty flavor, which gorgeously complemented the cheese.

 

Recently, I read a recipe for a lightened-up mac and cheese, where half of the pasta had been replaced by cauliflower. I was intrigued. I'm not eating a ton of pasta these days, so I figured I'd give it a go using 100% cauliflower. And why not try it with my trusty brown butter-pumpkin cheese sauce? 

I started by roasting a whole cauliflower with half an onion. 

Next, I browned some unsalted butter, just until it got nutty and really good-smelling.

I whisked in some pumpkin, milk, and sharp cheddar cheese, plus salt, pepper, and a touch of nutmeg, which works nicely with cheese and pumpkin, to make the sauce.

I stirred in the roasted cauliflower, right into the pot (all hail the multi-purpose Dutch oven!).

And topped the whole thing with a little more cheese.

Into the oven it went, and the result was astonishing.

I mean. Oof. Just, wow. 

I'm not going to lie to you and tell you it tasted like mac and cheese, mostly because this dish is delicious and worth making in its own right, mac and cheese-likeness aside. That said, if you're hankering for mac and cheese but, like me, you're keeping half-an-eye on your carb intake, this cheesy baked casserole will most definitely conquer that craving.  

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets $2
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced $0.50 for a whole onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Pantry
  • salt Pantry
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter $1 for a stick
  • 1/2 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin $1.50
  • 1 cup plus a few big pinches shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 1/2 an 8-ounce block) $3.50 for 8 ounces
  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole) $1.50 for a pint
  • pinch nutmeg $1.50 for 1-ounce 
  • black pepper

Recipe Serves 6

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Spread the cauliflower and onion on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss well to coat.
  3. Salt lightly.
  4. Roast the cauliflower and onions for 20-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and tender.
  5. While the cauliflower and onions roast, melt the butter in a large oven-proof pot (a dutch oven works well) over medium-high heat.
  6. Cook the butter just until it turns brown and gives off a slightly nutty smell.
  7. Add the pumpkin, cheese, and milk and whisk well until a creamy sauce forms (it may separate a bit, this is fine).
  8. Season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Remove the roasted cauliflower and onion from the oven and leave the oven on. 
  10. Add the cauliflower and onion to the sauce right the pot.
  11. Stir well to coat.
  12. Top the cauliflower-cheese mixture with the reserved pinches of cheddar.
  13. Bake for 25-27 minutes, until bubbly and browned on top.
  14. Top with chopped parsley, if desired and serve immediately.

How to Cook Tofu that Doesn't Suck

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 10 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $2.50
  • 41 Comments

When you're making a stir-fry, noodle dish, or salad, you want tofu that is firm and meaty, with a crispy exterior. 

Tofu is a healthy, inexpensive, protein-rich food. It's easy to find, lasts a long time in the fridge, and has lots of good belly benefits, thanks to the fermentation process required to make it. What's more, it's both an alternative to meat, and delicious in its own right. 

Well, it's delicious if you cook it well. And sadly, many cooks do not.

Soft, creamy silken tofu is a wonderful thing, maybe slicked with chili oil, floating in savory miso soup, or in dessert form with fresh fruit. But when you're making a stir-fry, noodle dish, or salad, you want tofu that is firm and meaty, with a crispy exterior. Still, so much tofu is often overly oily or just poorly cooked, rendering it limp, floppy, and incredibly boring. Of course, deep-frying the tofu solves this problem, but that can be messy and a lot of work (not to mention a lot of oil). But don't worry, there's a better solution.

I first learned this tofu cooking method when my college roommate Emily gave me Didi Emmons' wonderful book Entertaining for a Veggie Planet for my twenty-first birthday. Didi dries the tofu before dicing it into cubes, salting it, and pan-frying it. She calls the resulting crispy cubes "tofu croutons," as they resemble the toasted bread cubes you might toss into a salad (and are excellent in salads). 

In my version, I follow Didi's instructions almost exactly, except I always use sprouted extra-firm tofu which doesn't retain much liquid. I love this kind from Wildwood, which comes in convenient 2-packs.

I gently pat its outside dry, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.

I cook the tofu in 2 tablespoons of oil (I like to use coconut, but vegetable oil or grapeseed oil also work well) over medium-high heat, and salt it.

The tofu cooks in a single layer for 4-5 minutes, undisturbed (this is how it gets its lovely, crispy crust). Once one side has cooked, I give the pan a stir and let at least one more side get crispy.

Once it's crispy, I drain the tofu on paper towels or napkins and it's ready to go. There is usually a bit of oil left in the pan, which I usually use to fry onions or garlic for whatever I'm cooking.

Now the tofu is ready to use. Here it is on top of my favorite shirataki noodle salad

The cooked tofu will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 hours, so it's a great-do ahead task if you want to use it later in the day. It's perfect to toss into stir-fries, salads, noodle dishes, burritos, tacos, or even eaten straight, maybe with some homemade peanut sauce.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce package of extra-firm tofu, preferably sprouted $2.50
  • 2 tablespoons coconut, vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil Pantry
  • a few pinches of salt Pantry

 

Recipe Serves 4

Directions

  1. Wrap the tofu block in a clean dish towel and gently pat dry.
  2. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch pieces.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the tofu to the pan, salt it well, and let cook, undisturbed, for 4-5 minutes (check after 4 to make sure it's not burning), until a thick, golden-brown crust develops.
  5. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to flip the tofu as well as you can, to cook at least one other side untiul it is also golden-brown and crispy.
  6. Drain on a paper towels or napkins to remove any excess oil.
  7. Use immediately, or within 4 hours.