April 6, 2016

Dear friends,

While we assess the frost damage and wonder whether we’ll ever see another fresh-from-the-earth vegetable, we can make something different and delicious from the same old root vegetables we’ve endured all winter. I had forgotten about the roasted vegetable and bacon salad I made for Father’s Day one year when Tony’s son was still a teen-ager and my in-laws were visiting. It’s a great side for grilled steak.

Roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook dense vegetables because not only is it easy – just wash, toss with oil and bake on a cookie sheet – but it deepens and sweetens the flavors of the vegetables.

I often splash a little vinaigrette on cooked vegetables to give them flavor without adding butter with its saturated fats.

While you wait for the peas and spring lettuce to grow, you could do a lot worse than this:

ROASTED VEGETABLE SALAD WITH BACON
•    3 medium yellow-flesh potatoes (14 oz.)
•    4 medium carrots (7 oz.)
•    3 cloves garlic, sliced
•    1 cup red onion in 1-inch chunks
•    2 tbsp. olive oil
•    1 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
•    1 1/2 slices bacon, diced
•    1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

Vinaigrette:

•    1 tbsp. red-wine vinegar
•    1 1/2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
•    1 tbsp. olive oil
•    1/4 tsp. sea salt
•    Coarse-ground pepper to taste

Scrub potatoes but leave skins on. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Scrub carrots and peel if necessary; cut into 1-inch chunks. Combine on a large baking sheet with garlic and onion. Drizzle with the olive oil and mix well to coat all surfaces of vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and dot with bacon.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 to 50 minutes, turning once with a spatula, until edges of vegetables begin to brown. Loosen from sheet with a spatula and transfer to a medium serving bowl. Sprinkle with thyme.

Whisk vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle over vegetable mixture. Stir gently. Serve at room temperature. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

HELP U COOK

After years of weighting down unbaked pie crusts with dry beans, rice and — when desperate — metal cookie cutters, I learn that baking blind is unnecessary if you chill the unbaked pie shell.

Baking blind is weighting a foil-lined unbaked pie shell and baking several minutes, then removing the foil and weights and baking a few minutes longer until golden brown. The foil and weights prevent the crust from forming large bubbles when baked without a filling.

In a book I’ve used for years, “Pies & Pastries,” author Janet Pittman writes, “If you use a metal pie pan or a refrigerator-to-oven pie pan, baking blind is not necessary. Refrigerate the unbaked shell 15 to 20 minutes before baking. Then bake 8 to 10 minutes until the shell is golden brown.”

Although she recommends 475 degrees for both blind and refrigerator-to-oven baking, I use 450 because I’m prone to burning the dang things.

TIDBIT

I hereby dub Rob Stern the poet laureate of food for the rappin’ rhyme he sent about my chicken-breading instructions last week. He can take it from here:

“Dry first, fry later” has a blank verse appeal, I suppose,
But for a prole dish
Like fried chicken (or fish)
We want poetry, not prose,
So let me propose that THIS is how it goes:

First dry it, then fry it.
Now, Jane, you try it.
Or… We can kick it up more,
Add directions to underscore
And increase our store
Of fried food lore

For the ultimate greasy, crunchy score.
Thus, here is how it could go:
Dry with a paper towel, yo,
Now into flour, keep up the flow,
Dip in egg quick, that’s the trick,
Breading last, working fast,
Now – oil hot?
In the pot!

The moment is fraught,
The culmination of all you’ve learned and been taught,
Will it all be for naught?!
No! (I thought not) –
It comes out golden brown.
Word spreads all around town,
Jane wins the hot chicken throw down,

I don’t clown,
You’ve achieved your fried chicken cap ‘n gown,
With distinction and renown,
By using your wit.
But, if you’re a nitwit,
And this is too much to commit
To memory, then just remember the very first bit,
To wit:
First dry it,
Then fry it.

Bravo, Ron! You get down!
Now, how about a haiku on baking blind?

THE MAILBAG

From Eric:
Have you ever gone to the best hamburger joint on Beil Street in Memphis?  They deep fry the patties in 100-year-old filtered grease, and the burgers are just yummy. Can’t remember the name.

Dear Eric: I did some nosing around and found info on Dyer’s Burgers at 205 Beale Street, where not only the burger but the cheese that goes on it is deep fried in ancient (but I assume continually replenished) grease. Sorry I missed it and those hand-cut fries. The website is http://www.dyersonbeale.com.

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