Bye, Bye, Miss American Fry

I’ve always loved potatoes — baked, mashed, creamed, boiled, roasted, you name it — but the ones that make me swoon are fried potatoes.

My fondness for sauteed spuds hails back to my roots, when my folks would take us “up north” fishing.  I can still picture Mom cooking Dad’s early morning catch (generally walleye) in a cast iron skillet, adjacent to a larger skillet filled with sliced potatoes sizzling in butter.  Their aroma would waft through the open screen door to mingle with pine, birch, and lake-scented air and beckon me to blaze a trail to the table, where all of the above was served on a Melmac plate with a side of toast.

Breakfast doesn’t get much finer than that.

During “the trucking years” I looked forward to breakfast more than any other meal — particularly breakfast potatoes.  After a day or night of shifting gears across America, I’d search for a good ol’ fashioned truck stop — not one of those huge, hundred-acre mega-plexes, but a “Mom & Pop” joint — neat and tidy, with a little wear and tear around the edges, and a cook who looked like they’d put in a few miles, too.

After perusing the “breakfast section” of the menu, I’d order any combo that came with American Fries (sometimes hailed as “home fries”) and anticipate that mound of crisp-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside, hand-peeled, hand-cut spuds, pan-fried to a golden brown.  Depending on which region I was in (and which cook was slinging hash), the spuds would hint of butter, bacon grease, or lard — but, they were never greasy — and they typically sported diced onion or peppers.   Potato perfection.

Then came the convenience food revolution and a noticeable decline in “American fries” — often replaced by mechanically cut, frozen cubes dunked in a deep fryer.   Not the same!  I could almost hear Don McClean crooning, “Bye… bye… Miss American Fry…”

Thankfully, I ran across a recipe in the “good ol’ days” that never fails to deliver the taste and texture I’ve been missing.  Although billed as a ‘salad’ (Warm Irish Potato Salad http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/taste/11445761.html), these spuds are entirely suitable for breakfast, and worthy of their title.
 

American Fries (adapted from ‘The Local’ linked above)

4 c. red potatoes, diced

8 slices bacon, diced

1/2 c. malt vinegar

4 green onions, sliced

4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling water until almost tender; drain.  Rinse with cold water; place in a sieve to drain thoroughly.

In the meantime, fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove to paper toweling to drain.  Reserve drippings in skillet.

Heat bacon drippings over high heat; add potatoes.  Reduce heat to medium-high; cook and turn with a spatula until potatoes are browned evenly.  Add malt vinegar; stir gently until vinegar is evaporated.  Remove pan from heat.  Add green onions, parlsey, and bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

As I said, breakfast doesn’t get much finer than that.

Enjoying spud nostalgia,

~ Kim

What kind of potatoes do you like?

Strawberries & Cream Stuffed French Toast with Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

Ever notice how breakfast tastes better on a weekend morning?

I’m not much of a breakfast-eater during the week (unless it comes in a mug), but on Saturday mornings I’m in the mood for something decadent — not your ordinary breakfast fare.

The solution to my craving was Strawberries & Cream Stuffed French Toast.

Filled with ripe strawberries, sweetened mascarpone and cream cheeses, and a hint of spice, it elevated plain ol’ French Toast into something extraordinary.  Plus, it was quick to make.

Unless, of course, your local grocer happens to be out of Mascarpone cheese… in which case, you start the night before.

(Feel free to skip ahead to the French Toast recipe if you have Mascarpone on hand!)

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

(Adapted from two tarts’ recipe on Tasty Kitchen)

1 c. heavy cream

1/4 t. confectioners’ sugar

1/2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk together cream and confectioners’ sugar in a double boiler over simmering (not boiling) water.  Using a wooden spoon, stir until it reaches 180° F.  Add lemon juice and stir 5 minutes more; remove from heat.

Set top part of double boiler on a pot holder; let stand undisturbed for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl; line sieve with cheesecloth.  (In a pinch, use a coffee filter — same principle.)

Slowly pour the cream mixture into the sieve; let stand 20 minutes or until cool enough to refrigerate.  Wrap sieve (bowl and all) in plastic wrap; chill overnight.

In the morning, scrape the fresh Mascarpone cheese from the filter (it doesn’t stick) and discard the liquid in the bowl.

Prepare to be amazed…

I’ll never lack for Mascarpone cheese again.  Or stuffed French Toast…

Strawberries & Cream Stuffed French Toast

6 slices French bread, approximately 2″ wide each

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 oz. Mascarpone cheese, softened (homemade or store-bought)

1 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, plus additional for serving

1 pint ripe strawberries (reserve some for garnish)

1 c. milk

3 eggs

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. salt

4 Tbsp. butter, divided

Create a “pocket” in each slice of bread by slicing through the middle without cutting through the crust; set aside.

Mix together softened cheeses and confectioners’ sugar until well blended.

Rinse and hull strawberries; pat dry.  Slice berries into 1/4″ slices.

Spread a generous portion of cheese mixture in each French bread “pocket.”  Layer with sliced strawberries; set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, spices, and salt.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter on a griddle over medium heat.

Meanwhile, dip each stuffed French toast into egg batter, covering both sides; drain slightly.

Fry three pieces at a time.  When underside is golden brown, flip over and fry until golden on both sides.  Keep warm in a 250 oven until remaining pieces are cooked.  (Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to griddle before frying the rest.)

Serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar; garnish with whole strawberries.

Weekend French Toast

This weekend, treat your family (or yourself) to breakfast — you’ll be glad you did!

Enjoying a slice of Stuffed French Toast (okay, two…),

~ Kimby