Saturday, November 24, 2018

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

The frenetic pace and challenge of getting turkey and side dishes to be served together at precisely 6pm on Thanksgiving day is exhausting. So over the years, I've been working in "make ahead" recipes that makes serving the meal a whole lot easier. Make ahead gravy. Make ahead stuffing.

This year, I added make ahead mashed potatoes. And I'm here to tell you they were the best mashed potatoes ever. First off, I avoided all of the chemistry class theatrics required of boiling potatoes from scratch with cold water. And that method requires great precision in order to serve piping hot potatoes with piping hot turkey at the same time.

And this method is foolproof. You cannot screw it up. Anyone who can read can make perfect mashed potatoes. Yes, even you, Joan.

5 pounds of russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, each potato peeled and quartered
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1-1/2 cups whole milk

8 tablespoons butter
2 cups of half & half
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Chopped chives, for garnish


  1. Peel and quarter potatoes and place in slow cooker with garlic and 1-1/2 cups of milk. Set slow cooker to high and cover. Cook for 5 hours.
  2. After 5 hours, turn slow cooker to warm. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the slow cooker.
  3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. When melted, add half & half to the pan and heat to warm (do not boil). When warm, add mixture to slow cooker. Using masher, blend potatoes with butter/half & half mixture.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste....a half of a teaspoon at a time for the uninitiated.
  5. Cover potatoes and serve whenever you want.

Grogs and Goldie, 1956

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Thanksgiving Stuffing

Stuffing is, without a doubt, my favorite side at Thanksgiving. And I've been making it the same way for 40+ years. The recipe is nothing's all store-bought ingredients with just a few extras thrown in. I cook my stuffing in a casserole as I am not partial to Salmonella Russian Roulette when stuffing is cooked in the cavity of the bird.

I always start with Pepperidge Farm Sage & Onion Cubed Stuffing. I just love how that stuff tastes. It's simply toasted white and wheat bread cubes in their own special blend of spices. To that I add hot Italian sausage, celery, onion and sautéed mushrooms. I cook those up in the morning and then add the Pepperidge Farm stuffing about an hour before eating. Like I said...there's nothing extraordinary about the recipe...except for the taste. Once you try it, you are hooked for life.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds hot Italian sausage
2  yellow onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
16 ounces mushrooms, chopped

10 tablespoons butter
4 cups chicken broth
2, 12-ounce bags Pepperidge Farm Sage & Onion Cubed Stuffing


  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat olive oil until it is shimmering. Then add sausage, onions, celery and mushrooms. Cook until there is no pink in the sausage and all of the vegetables have softened (about 8 minutes).
  2. In a large saucepan, heat butter and chicken broth over medium heat until all of the butter has melted into the broth.
  3. Preheat oven to 350º.
  4. In a large casserole, add the two bags of cubed stuffing. Add sausage, onions, celery and mushrooms then stir thoroughly to mix. The add broth/butter mixture and stir again to thoroughly mix.
  5. Cover casserole and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, then serve in a room that is no warmer than 68º.

Wine pairing: Best Turkey Day wine ever! 

Grogs and Goldie in her 82º kitchen

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Cacio e Pepe

Becky and I were recently in California to celebrate her birthday. One night we had dinner at a spot we had eaten at many times before, but had somehow never noticed what is considered the house specialty: Cacio e Pepe. The dish is essentially spaghetti with cheese and pepper. I was shocked at the $45 price for the meal. But they made a big deal about the dish and said we would marvel at the tableside presentation. And marvel we did.

The waiter carted out a half-wheel of Parmesan cheese. A full wheel costs about $1,500 for 3-year aged Parmesan and weighs in at a whopping 100 pounds. The restaurant cuts the wheel in half and shaves a small amount of the cheese out to create a bowl. The warm spaghetti melts the cheese as it is tumbled in the bowl. The dish is so popular at Bella Vista that they go through a 100-pound wheel every two weeks.

Most of us don't keep 100-pound wheels of Parmesan in our pantry. So I researched a number of recipes to see how I could come closest to what I ate that night...but with just the resources of a home cook. I found a recipe by Ali Martin that I think comes the closest....and it only requires a few ingredients. There are two things that are very important. Buy the cheese in your deli department. It should be cut from a wheel and you need to grate it at home. If you use refrigerated, pre-grated cheese your meal will clump and be ruined. Second, let your sauce and spaghetti cool for 2-3 minutes before you mix them. If you mix them while piping hot...yes...they will clump.

3 tablespoons of salt
8 ounces of spaghetti
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon freshly cracked, coarse black pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese


  1. Fill a large pot with water and add 3 tablespoons of salt. Bring water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente (about a minute less than package instructions.)
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the pepper, and cook for 1 minute.  Then ladle out about 1/2 cup of the boiling starchy pasta water, and slowly add it to the melted butter mixture.  (Be careful, it will bubble up vigorously when added.)  Whisk until combined. 
  3. Remove pan from heat and let it rest for at least 3 minutes.  Gradually add in the cheese, and whisk until combined.
  4. Once the pasta is ready to go, reserve an extra 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water from the stockpot and set it aside.  Strain your pasta completely, and let it rest for 2-3 minutes to cool off a tiny bit.  Then add about half of your pasta to the sauce, give it a good toss, add the remaining pasta and toss until completely combined, adding in a splash of the reserved pasta water if needed if the sauce starts to seem dry.  Taste, and season with extra salt, if needed, and toss to combine.
  5. Serve warm, garnished with extra cheese and pepper.

Wine pairing: Chianti Classico

Grogs and Goldie, 1956