Christmas isn’t even here yet, but I’m already worrying about leftovers. I justify this to myself by saying that I like to plan ahead, but maybe I should be enjoying the moment.
In any case, I ALWAYS have leftover mashed potatoes after holiday meals, so I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Potato Croquettes that calls for mashed potatoes. The Potato Croquettes had a crispy crust filled with a delightful spicy mashed potato mixture flavored with paprika, cayenne pepper, celery salt, parsley, and onion.
2 cups hot mashed potatoes (If they are cold, they can be reheated in the microwave.)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fine bread crumbs
approximately 1/2 cup shortening
Mix together the potatoes, butter, salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, celery salt, parsley, egg yolks, and minced onion. Shape into 1-inch balls; then roll in flour, dip in beaten egg, and finally roll in bread crumbs. (If the potato mixture is sticky – and not very firm, skip dipping in the egg.)
Place the shortening into a frying pan, and heat until hot. (There should be about 1/2 inch of melted shortening. Add more if needed.) Drop balls into the hot shortening, then gently roll the balls with a fork until all sides are a light brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
When I made the recipe I used 1/2 teaspoon of salt rather than the 1 teaspoon called for in the original recipe. I also used chopped onion rather than onion juice. The recipe turned out fine with these substitutions.
When it comes to cooking, March is the month I find most challenging. Many days the weather is still brisk and windy (with an occasional snow shower) – and winter foods seem most appropriate, yet I’m tiring of them and yearn for bright and sunny spring foods.
When I searched for the perfect hundred-year-old recipe for this week, I came across a recipe for Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks that excited me.
The verdict: The Leek and Potato Soup was easy to make, and delightful; and, just right on a damp and raw March day. The traditional combination of leeks and potatoes in a rich and creamy soup base warmed me, and delicate yellow and green leek pieces floating in the soup provided just a hint of spring.
The recipe called for serving the soup with Imperial Bread Sticks. The bread sticks were made by cutting bread into sticks and toasting. It was fun to replicate how people made bread sticks a hundred years ago – though it I made this soup again, I’d probably either serve it with a warm artisan bread or buy modern bread sticks.
Clean the leeks and remove the coarse dark green tops. Cut the white and light-green portions of the leeks into thin slices. Set aside.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Put the diced potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Put on the stove and using high heat bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and drain.
Add the sliced leeks to the drained potatoes, and just barely cover with boiling water. (I heated the water in the microwave. In days gone by, it would have been heated in a tea kettle or pan on the stove.). Return to the stove, and using high heat bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover; cook until the leeks are tender (about 15 minutes). (DO NOT drain.) Stir in the salt, pepper, cream, parsley, and butter. Heat until the soup is hot and steamy. Remove from heat, and, if desired, serve with Imperial Bread Sticks.
Imperial Bread Sticks
bread (I used sliced Vienna bread.)
Cut as many slices of bread as desired into sticks 1/2 inch wide. Cut off the crust. Butter both sides of the bread sticks, and then place on a metal baking sheet. Place under the broiler and broil until lightly browned. Remove from oven and flip, then return to broiler to brown the other side. Remove from heat and serve.
Notes: The process for preparing and cooking the leeks and potatoes in the old recipe was a bit befuddling. The potatoes (which I assume were diced into cubes) were boiled for three minutes, then the water was drained. Next the entire white and light green sections of the leeks were added to the saucepan, and everything was covered with boiling water. This mixture was then cooked until the leeks were tender – at which point, the leeks were removed from the water and thinly sliced; then returned to the water.
When I updated the recipe I simplified the process just a little. Perhaps draining the potatoes after cooking them for several minutes removed excess starch, so I retained that step. And, perhaps pouring boiling water on the leeks and partially cooked potatoes (rather than covering them with cold water which is brought to a boil) affects the texture of the vegetables, so I retained that step.
But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the leeks should be cooked before slicing. If seems like it would be much more difficult to slice cooked leeks than raw ones, so I simplified that step and sliced the raw leeks before adding them to the potatoes.
The week after Christmas is left-overs week at my house, so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Potato Puffs I had to give them a try.
The Potato Puffs were light and creamy with just a hint of onion. When, I served the Potato Puffs, my daughter said, “Mom, this recipe is one of your better hundred-year-old recipes.” In other words, this recipe is a winner.
1 teaspoon onion, grated (use additional grated onion if desired)
milk, as needed
salt and pepper, optional
Preheat oven to 425° F. Stir the egg into the mashed potatoes. If too thick, add a little milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drop heaping teaspoons of the potato mixture onto a greased baking sheet. Bakes 20 – 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
Notes: (1) If left-over mashed potatoes have been refrigerated, warm in a microwave or on the stove top, prior to adding the egg. The potatoes only need to be warm, not hot. If the potatoes are quite hot, be sure to immediately start vigorously stirring when the egg is added to keep the egg from beginning to coagulate. (2) Potato Puffs may be refrigerated and reheated. Put in a 400 ° F oven for 20 minutes or until hot.
Mashed Potatoes are a quick and easy-to-make comfort food. It’s one of those foods that I never use a recipe to make. Long ago I learned how to boil the potatoes, whip them, add a little butter and milk, and whip a bit more to combine.
Given how easy it is to make Mashed Potatoes, I was very surprised to discover a hundred-year-old recipe for Mashed Potatoes that contained extensive detail. Back then even the most complex recipes were generally short and lacked details, Why would recipes for difficult-to-make foods leave a huge amount of latitude for interpretation, while a recipe for a basic food be very specific?
This recipe referred to two other recipes. One explained how to boil potatoes:
The other recipe mentioned in the Mashed Potato recipe was the Potato in the Half Shell recipe, which contained information about how much butter, milk, and salt should be used when making potatoes:
I generally use electric beaters to make “mashed” potatoes, but I decided to give the old-time recipe a try. I dug out my old potato masher out from under all my other seldom-used kitchen utensils in the back of bottom drawer in the kitchen cabinets, and made real mashed potatoes.
4 cups potatoes, pared and cut into 1-inch cubes (4-6 potatoes) (I used red potatoes – though russets would also work well.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
approximately 1/4 cup milk
Put enough water into a large saucepan so that it is about 1/3 filled; add salt and bring to a boil using high heat. Add diced potatoes; return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft when poked with a fork. Remove from heat and drain. Using a wire potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the butter and half the milk. Mash a little more to combine. If the potatoes are too stiff, add additional milk until the potatoes reach the desired consistency. (Do not over-mash or the potatoes will get gummy.) Reheat the mashed potatoes using medium heat To reheat, put the pan with the mashed potatoes back on the stove using medium heat for 15-30 seconds; stir once or twice. Remove from heat and put in serving dish.
Over the next couple weeks I have several picnics on my calendar. Potato Salad is the quintessential picnic food, so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old Potato Salad recipe.
At first I wasn’t quite sure about the recipe. It didn’t contain the usual Potato Salad ingredients like celery and mayonnaise, but rather was a vinaigrette dressing. Yet, the recipe was so easy that I decided to give it a try.
The Potato Salad was lovely, and the vinaigrette dressing with a hint of pepper was just right. It added a delightful flavor to the potatoes, but didn’t overwhelm them. This recipe is a keeper.
The old recipe made a lot of dressing relative to the potatoes, so I divided it by three when I revised it. Here’s the updated recipe for modern cooks:
Peel and dice potatoes into 3/4 inch chunks. Put into a sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the potatoes are just barely tender (about 5-7 minutes). Remove from heat and drain. Chill in refrigerator for several hours, then add onions.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour this dressing over the potatoes and onions. Gently toss to coat the potatoes with the dressing. Put in serving bowl; and, if desired, garnish with parsley sprigs.