October 2007

Tortilla Espanola, Sopa de Pollo con Fideos, Seafood Pie with Cornbread Crust and Daisy’s Papas a la Crema

“Goblins, Alley Cats, Witches on Brooms…”

Leaves in the trees, singing scary tunes… these are the things that are heard and seen…In the dark of night, on Halloween!” That was a song I used to sing in elementary school for Halloween, my second favorite holiday in the world. Up until my family moved to Staten Island, N.Y., I have no memory of Halloween, but believe me, the idea caught on like wildfire!
Today, I am still the biggest kid in my house when it comes to Halloween, but aside from the anticipated hullaboo of October 31st, if I close my eyes and think “October”, I can smell cazuela made with sweet potatoes and spices, cooked apple perfumed with cinnamon, and pots of bubbling beans scented with smoky jamon, or salchichon. Morning chill has me reaching for the cornmeal to cook up a pot of hot cereal , enriched with eggs and milk, and made irresistible with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove (think “breakfast polenta”, Erik used to call it “creamy maiz!), and cool afternoons serve as inspiration for Abuela’s Sopa de Pollo with Fideos, and Seafood Pie with Cornbread Crust, cozy comfort food.
This past September, I visited a Colombian restaurant, Nativa, in Astoria, NY, where I was served a side dish of boiled potatoes dressed in an aromatic béchamel sauce that had been enhanced with shallots, carrots, garlic, bay leaf, and scallions, called Papas a la Crema. After the first bite, I knew that this was a recipe that was going to find itself into the Daisy kitchen, and it really fits the “cozy, comfort food” bill. At Nativa, the Papas a la Crema were served with a grilled meat platter that was unbearably delicious, but enough to feed a family of four (for an in depth blog review of Nativa, see Boriqua Blog).

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Papas a la Crema from Nativa Restaurant in Astoria

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Daisy’s Papas a la Crema

Armed with determination, my wire whisk and some russet potatoes, I decided that today would be the perfect day to try out this month’s exclusive recipe. The weather was conducive to grilling a London broil, which I thought would compliment the creamy side dish nicely. While, my béchamel is colored slightly more than the sauce at Nativa, I concluded that it was because I cooked the carrots in the béchamel proper, instead of blanching them apart (which I thought would sacrifice the flavor imparted by the carrots), but other than that, I thought the sauce was delicious. I decided that I would present the potatoes in the same manner that I experienced then at the restaurant, but I think in the future, maybe I’ll parboil the potatoes, slice them in rounds, dress them with the sauce, and bake them, so that the potatoes and the sauces flavors meld. Only after this, will I slide them under the broiler to bubble and brown, but for now, I think this is a good first effort, don’t you?

That’s it for this month, folks! I’m getting the house ready for Halloween, hoarding my stashes of Halloween goodies, and working on my costume, not to mention I need to start working on my Christmas list! This certainly is one of my favorite times of year, with the anticipation of the cold weather holidays, and the friendly frost outside, that makes my kitchen the most popular room in my house. I encourage you to join your friends and family in the kitchen, and cook up some memories of your own!
Happy Halloween !

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