Obamenu

Anyone out there watch that inauguration the other day? If you were anywhere near a TV or a computer, it was pretty much unavoidable. I’m an NBC guy myself, but you could have been watching ABC, CBS, CNN, HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, Telemundo, Golf Channel, SoapNet, Sundance, QVC, or Logo. They all had it covered.

Three quick observations from me (your go-to source for political commentary) before I get on with this post:

  1. Chief Justice John Roberts totally did that on purpose. Clearly, he’s not qualified to be chief anything.
  2. Michelle was trying too hard with that gold dress. Just seemed a bit flashy for the occasion.
  3. A friend commented that Dick Cheney, in his wheelchair, looked like Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You think Obama, and especially Joe Biden (who apparently detests Cheney), didn’t restrain a chuckle at the sight of this?

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Anyway, while watching the coverage of the inaugural luncheon (I’m aware of how odd that sounds), I learned that the luncheon menu was posted on the official inaugural website, and that this was the most visited page on the website.

The menu is as follows:

First Course
Seafood Stew

Second Course
Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney
Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing
(it’s not clear whether there was a choice of fowl)
Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Winter Vegetables

Third Course
Cinnamon Apple Sponge Cake

[My first thought is, that’s a lot of food, of rather diverse protein and fiber and spice content. What happens if it doesn’t sit well with some of those older senators? Or Obama? Is it embarrassing if you have to run to the men’s room? And what is the bathroom like in Statuary Hall?]

You can find the full recipes on that website if you like, but I’ve posted the Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes here for your convenience. It is by far the least convoluted – easily doable without a lot of fuss, so if you want to sample what all the VPs and VIPs ate in the minutes after the inauguration, here’s your shot.

3 large sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs.)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup orange juice
½ tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 400. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Peel the skin off of the sweet potatoes while still hot. By hand or mixer, smash potatoes until all large chunks are gone. Combine the potatoes, butter, salt, orange juice, brown sugar, cumin, molasses and maple syrup in a large bowl. Continue to mix all together until all lumps are gone. Adjust any of the seasonings to taste.

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Hanukkah sort-of latkes

Last night, my family and I were hanging around in the house, snow-bound with nothing to do except look at each other and wonder what we should have for dinner. On the counter were a couple of boxes of potato latke mix that my Mom had bought. Hunger problem solved, right? But I had long since sworn off making ANYTHING from a mix (I like to pretend I’m a snobby chef sometimes), but the boxes were calling to me … I could hear them … and, also, I didn’t feel like hand-grating a lot of potatoes to make latkes from scratch (yes, you can grate them in a food processor, but there wasn’t one in the vicinity).

Then, I had a light bulb moment. My friend Jonathan had told me that he’s had latkes from a mix with real potatoes added into the mix, and claimed they were BETTER than from scratch. So I said to myself: OK, fine, I’ll use the mix (as long as no one else is watching). I ended up adding two extra grated potatoes, plus a diced onion, to the latke mix (prepare ahead of time according to the instructions on the box).

When you’re ready to fry, don’t be afraid to use a good amount of oil. Use enough vegetable oil (canola or safflower are lower in fat, but peanut or corn oil taste better) to cover the skillet, and then some, to about 1/8 inch.

Tips:

  • Use medium-high heat, and don’t put too many scoops of batter in the pan at once. This will help the latkes brown evenly.
  • Keep a close eye on them, because they will turn from a nice golden brown to not-so-nice charcoal pretty quickly.
  • When you flip them, BE CAREFUL. Flip them away from you. This will help minimize splattering the hot oil all over you, which is not a fun time!

When they’re golden brown and delicious, carefully remove them from the pan and place on a plate with paper towels to drain off some of the excess oil. If you’re making more than one batch, you can keep them warm in a 300 degree oven.

So, when I brought the last batch over to our kitchen table, and everyone was already enjoying the ones I already made, and telling me how great they were, I realized: no longer do I have to grate a zillion potatoes to make “real” potato latkes from scratch! If you’re pressed for time, just make them from semi-scratch. They’ll be more than semi-delicious!