Shallow Thoughts : : recipes
Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.
Tue, 25 Nov 2014
Yams. I love 'em. (Actually, technically I mean sweet potatoes, since
what we call "yams" here in the US aren't actual yams,
but the root from a South American plant, Ipomoea batatas,
related to the morning glory.
I'm not sure I've ever had an actual yam, a tuber from an African
plant of the genus Dioscorea).
But what's up with the way people cook them? You take something that's
inherently sweet and yummy -- and then you cover them with brown sugar
and marshmallows and maple syrup and who knows what else.
Do you sprinkle sugar on apples before you eat them?
Normally, I bake a yam for about an hour in the oven, or, if time is
short (which it usually is), microwave it for about four and a half
minutes, then finish up with 20-40 minutes in a toaster oven at 350°.
The oven part seems to be necessary: it brings out the sweetness and
the nice crumbly texture in a way that the microwave doesn't.
You can read about some of the science behind this at this
Eats discussion of cooking sweet potatoes: it's because sweet
potatoes have an odd enzyme, beta amylase, that breaks down
carbohydrates into sugars, thus bringing out the vegetable's sweetness,
but that enzyme only works in a limited temperature range, so if you
heat up a sweet potato too fast the enzyme doesn't have time to work.
But Thanksgiving is coming up, and for a friend's dinner party,
I wanted to make something a little more festive (and more easily
parceled out) than whole baked yams.
A web search wasn't much help: nearly everything I found involved
either brown sugar or syrup.
The most interesting casserole recipes I saw fell into two categories:
sweet and spicy yams with chile powder and cayenne pepper (and brown
sugar), and for yam-apple casserole (with brown sugar and lemon juice).
As far as I can tell it has never occurred to anyone, before me, to
try either of these without added sugar. So I bravely volunteered
myself as test subject.
I was very pleased with the results. The combination of the tart
apples, the sweet yams and the various spices made a lovely combination.
And it's a lot healthier than the casseroles with all the sugary stuff
piled on top.
Yam-Apple Casserole without added sugar
(Your choice whether to use all of these spices, just some, or
- Yams, as many as needed.
- Apples: 1-2 apples per yam. Use a tart variety, like granny smith.
- chile powder
- rosemary or thyme
- ginger powder
Peel and dice yams and apples into bite-sized pieces, inch or
(Peeling the yams is optional.)
Drizzle a little olive oil over the yam and apple pieces, then sprinkle
spices. Your call as to which spices and how much.
Toss it all together until the pieces are all evenly coated with oil
and the spices look evenly distributed.
Lay out in a casserole dish or cake pan and bake at 350°F
until the yam pieces are soft. This takes at least an hour, two
if you made big pieces or layered the pieces thickly in the pan.
The apples will mostly disintegrate into little mushy bits between the
pieces of yam, but that's fine -- they're there for flavor, not consistency.
Note: After reading about beta-amylase and its temperature range, I
had the bright idea that it would be even better to do this in a crockpot.
Long cooking at low temps, right? Wrong! The result was terrible,
almost completely tasteless. Stick to using the oven.
I'm going to try adding some parsnips, too, though parsnips seem to
need to cook longer than sweet potatoes, so it might help to
pre-cooked the parsnips a few minutes in the microwave before tossing
them in with the yams and apples.
[ 19:07 Nov 25, 2014
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Wed, 12 Nov 2014
Posole is a traditional New Mexican dish made with pork, hominy and chile.
Most often it's made with red chile, but Dave and I are both green chile
fans so that's how I make it. I make no claims as to the resemblance
between my posole and anything traditional; but it sure is good after
a cold, windy day like we had today.
Dave is leery of anything called "posole" -- I think the hominy
reminds him visually of garbanzo beans, which he dislikes -- but he
admits that they taste fine in this stew. I call it "green chile
stew" rather than "posole" when talking to him, and then he gets
Ingredients (all quantities very approximate):
- pork, about a pound; tenderloin works well but cheaper cuts are okay too
- about 10 medium-sized roasted green chiles, whatever heat you prefer
(or 1 large or 2 medium cans diced green chile)
- 1 can hominy
- 1 large or two medium russet potatoes (or equivalent amount of other type)
- 1 can chicken broth
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp red chile powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- fresh garlic to taste
- black pepper and hot sauce (I use Tapatio) to taste
Start the crockpot heating: I start it on high then turn it down later.
Dice potato. At least half the potato should be in small pieces,
say 1/4" cubes, or even shredded; the other half can be larger chunks.
I leave the skin on.
Pre-cook diced potato in the microwave for 7 minutes or until
nearly soft enough to eat,
in a loosely covered bowl with maybe 1" of water in the bottom.
(This will get messy and the water gets all over and you have to
clean the microwave afterward. I haven't found a solution to that yet.)
Dump cooked potato into crockpot.
Dice pork into stew-sized pieces, trimming fat as desired.
Add to crockpot.
De-skin and de-seed the green chiles and cut into short strips.
(Or use canned or frozen.) Add to crockpot.
Add spices: salt, chile powder, cumin, and hot sauce (if your
chiles aren't hot enough -- we have a bulk order of mild chiles this
year so I sprinkled liberally with Tapatio).
Cover, reduce heat to low.
Cook 6-7 hours, occasionally stirring, tasting and correcting the seasoning.
(I always add more of everything after I taste it, but that's me.)
Serve with bread, tortillas, sopaipillas or similar.
French bread baked from the refrigerated dough in the supermarket
works well if you aren't brave enough to make sopaipillas
(I'm not, yet).
[ 17:49 Nov 12, 2014
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Sun, 07 Mar 2010
I never blog recipes. But while I was making rouladen today, I
remembered when I first tried to make it, and discovered that the
recipes on the web were all for something entirely different than
the delicious rouladen my mom used to make. Mom got the recipe from a
German babysitter named Betty who used to take care of me when I was little.
It was fantastic and I haven't had anything else like it anywhere,
so I asked Mom for the recipe, adapted it a little for my crockpot,
and have been enjoying it ever since.
Apologies for the lack of precise quantities. This is how we do recipes
in my family, and I'm not great at following precise instructions
anyway, and in any case, the recipe originally came from Mom watching
Betty make it once.
Flank steak - lay it out flat.
Mustard - whatever kind you have lying around.
Paint a thin layer onto steak. I personally hate mustard, but
it doesn't taste like mustard in the final dish so it's okay.
Bacon - maybe 5 pieces. Cook to not-quite-crisp, to get rid of some
of the fat. I cut off some of the fat too, but I'm weird that way.
Lay strips on top of mustard.
Bread crumbs - Sprinkle on top of bacon. A little or a lot, as you wish.
Enough to leak out when it's rolled, as it thickens the sauce nicely.
Roll steak up and secure with skewers or string. Watch the grain and
roll it so that when you slice it, you'll be slicing across the grain.
This will seem weird and wrong and you'll want to roll it up the other
way because this way you'll end up with a long skinny thing that doesn't
fit in the pot. It'll taste just as good either way, but it'll be a lot
easier to eat if you roll it up the right way.
Brown steak a bit in small amount of oil, any kind ... maybe use
a little of the bacon grease.
Onions, sliced - I don't like onions, so I leave them out.
Tomato sauce - one regular-sized can. Pour over steak.
Add a little water too, up to about 1/3 can, if you want more sauce.
Salt, pepper, spices as desired. I add a little cinnamon, to make it
taste more like Grecian Chicken (another tomato-sauce recipe where
googling gets entirely the wrong result, and if I ever find it I'll
be sure to blog it) or like the chicken tikka masala at Bollywood Cafe
(which has no resemblance to tikka masala anywhere else, but is wonderful).
I usually toss in a couple of bay leaves too, and whatever else I
feel like adding that day.
Cook in the crockpot maybe 6.5 hours on high, longer on low.
Also works fine simmering in a pan on the stove -- check it about 2.5
hours but expect it to take 3 or so.
It doesn't hurt to baste occasionally, or add water if it starts to look dry
(in the crockpot that usually isn't needed).
In the last hour or two, toss in:
Raisins - maybe a double handful (a couple small boxes).
When it's done, it should be falling-apart tender.
Cut small rounds, ladle sauce over them, and serve with noodles or bread.
[ 11:56 Mar 07, 2010
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