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April 18, 2021

4/2/2021 12:17:00 PM
Focusing on potato side dishes

Easter is just around the corner, and it’s finally starting to feel like a bit of a normal holiday. Last year’s Easter family celebrations were almost universally cancelled, and it was one of the first of many major events that were altered in the COVID-19 world.

This year, there are many more families getting together. Whether it’s because they are vaccinated, have already had COVID or are just to the point they are wanting to live their lives, the celebrations seem to be on this year.

My extended family has made the decision to get together since it’s supposed to be over 70 degrees out. Many in my family are vaccinated, and we can set up tables outside and enjoy the weather. It will be my first time seeing anyone in my extended family, including my Grandma Norton, since Christmas of 2019, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Easter is one my favorite foodie holidays. I much prefer ham over turkey, and there’s always good sweets after lunch.

Despite my love for ham, I’ve decided to leave a pork recipe out of this week’s column becausee I feel like most people have their own ham recipe already, and with them usually coming cured or smoked already, there’s not a whole lot of extra to do besides different glazes and some cloves.

Instead, I wanted to focus on a couple of potato sides that I absolutely love and a recipe for those leftover hardboiled eggs from the egg dying.

+ + + +

8 red potatoes, cubed
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup half-and-half cream
1/4 teaspoon steak seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon white sugar

Place the potatoes into a large pot, and fill with enough water to cover. Add 1 teaspoon of the crushed garlic to the water for flavor. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.

Drain the potatoes, and add the butter. Mash until the butter is melted. Mix in the half-and-half, steak seasoning, garlic powder, sugar, and remaining garlic. Mix potatoes with a mixer until smooth. You can bypass the mixer and do it by hand if you’re like me and don’t mind some potato chunks in your mashed. (I don’t know if I’m weird for that, or if a lot of people don’t like their mashed too smooth.)

I’ve made these many times, and most of the ingredients can be raised or lowered to your liking, except for the sugar. Don’t put too much sugar in there. I usually use a bit extra garlic and a good, salty steakhouse seasoning.

You can peel the potatoes if you want before boiling, but when it comes to red potatoes, I like to leave the skin on for that little extra texture in the finished product. Plus, it’s just easier.

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Growing up, I thought au gratin potatoes were just always from a box. I know it sounds silly, but my simple mind couldn’t comprehend how to make homemmade au gratins.

Last year, I tried my hand at them for the first time, and turns out, they are amazing and go great with ham.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
5 cups thinly sliced peeled potatoes (about 6 medium)
1/2 cup chopped onion
Additional pepper, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir two minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in cheese until melted. Add potatoes and onion.

Transfer to a greased two quart baking dish. Cover and bake one hour. Uncover; bake 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. If desired, top with additional pepper.

To some, slicing your own potatoes thin enough for au gratins may seem challenging, but if you have a cheese grater, you most likely have a potato slicer on the side of it. That’s probably common knowledge, but as someone who has started to expand techniques and recipe lists the past few years, that discovery made au gratins a whole heck of a lot easier.

+ + + +

Full disclosure: I hate deviled eggs. That’s heresy to most people, but I have never liked them, and I’ve tried them plenty. So here’s a different recipe for hard boiled eggs left over from dying eggs with the kids that goes great with an Easter luncheon and is nice and simple.

2-1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup sweet pickle juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped
6 sweet pickles, chopped

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain macaroni; rinse with cold water and drain well.

In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, pickle juice, salt and pepper. Stir in cheese, eggs and pickles. Add macaroni; toss gently to coat. Refrigerate, covered, until chilled, at least two hours.

TFD: Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life. If this last year has taught us anything, enjoy any time you get with family, in person or virtual, and cherish those close. Happy Easter!

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