light and fluffy mashed potatoes

For Erev Yom Kippur dinner last night, I made mashed potatoes.  I thought they were good, but my daughter Randi swooned as she ate some and said, “These potatoes are like fluffy clouds, they’re so light!  She asked me if I had done anything different than usual to which I said I didn’t, but I realized I’d better write down what I did do!

5 lbs. organic Idaho potatoes

2 sticks Whole Foods salted butter

about 1/2 cup whole, organic milk

salt (not kosher)

about 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Peel potatoes.  Cut into largish pieces and put in large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil (uncovered), and simmer over low boil till you can put a fork into potatoes easily.  Drain in colander.  Put your sticks of butter back in pot to melt over low flame.  Add potatoes back in, and mash.  Add salt to taste and pepper too.  Then add milk, and mash till nice and fluffy.

Eggs and Potatoes in One Pan

I often make one of my specialties, called brenta, which is a recipe of my Grandma Hindes.  Brenta means burned in Yiddish, and these are basically fried potatoes- a Jewish version of hash browns-  but better (you can find this recipe on this site under potatoes). 

To make this, I put about 1 tablespoon of butter in a small nonstick frying pan and melted it on a medium flame.  Then, I put some leftover brenta (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) in the pan and flattened them to cover the bottom of the pan.  Then I cracked 2 extra large organic eggs on top of the brenta.  I broke the yolks a little, then I covered the pan, and cooked over a medium high flame until the eggs were cooked.  I served and ate immediately, sprinkling with a little kosher salt and some fresh black pepper.  This Is as yummy as can be. 

The next time I do this, I may sprinkle some grated extra sharp cheddar on top of the eggs as they cook.  I’m also thinking about making this dish but in a larger quantity for my family or to bring to school for one of our teacher breakfasts.  I’d do it in an oval baking dish, and bake it in the oven on a high temperature – of course add more of everything- maybe about 4 cups of the brenta, 1 dozen eggs, and about 1/2 cup shredded cheddar over all.  I’ll keep you posted once I do this for more people than just myself.

Roasted Potatoes

Ive made these a variety of ways.  All are delicious.  I will try to include all the varieties I’ve made below.

Oven Roasted Potatoes:

  • Red new potatoes, or white new potatoes, or Idaho, russet potatoes, or yukon gold
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • light olive oil

Wash potatoes and either leave them whole if they are really small, or cut them in half if they are a little bigger, or cut them into more pieces if the potatoes are large.  I don’t peel any of the new potatoes, which makes the job much easier.

I’ve done this 2 ways.  The first is to put the whole or cut potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered just until almost tender, then place on sheet pan lined with foil and coated with oil (I usually use light olive oil).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil, toss with clean hands, and roast in a 425 degree oven for about 45 min., turning potatoes a few times during cooking. 

The other way is to not parboil the potatoes, place them on greased pan, sprinkle with salt and a little pepper, drizzle with oil, toss with clean hands, and roast in a 400 or 425 degree oven until the potatoes are brown and tender, turning them a few times during the cooking time, probably roasting for about 50 min. to 75 min. till potatoes are browned and tender.

Another method is to roast the potatoes in a large, heavy dutch oven, like a Le Creuset on top of the stove.  Melt about 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter in pot over medium flame, place very small whole potatoes or cut into 2 or more pieces if they are larger potatoes. You may instead use light olive oil, or a combination of oil and butter, or just butter.  Sprinkle potatoes with salt and a little pepper.   Cover and cook about 30-45 minutes, tossing every 5-10 minutes or so to prevent sticking.  When potatoes are tender, take off heat.  I found that my butter was burned a little at this point, so I took the potatoes out, wiped out the pan, put the potatoes back in, added about 2 tablespoons of butter, about 2 tablespoons of a combination of chopped fresh dill and fresh Italian parsley, and I tossed.  Taste and reseason with salt. 

Alu Ki Tikki or Indian Potato Patties

I was lucky enough to eat some delicious authentic, homemade Indian food at the home of my friend Swapna and her lovely son Aditya.  I loved it so much that I got the recipe from Swapna and her mother, and tonight I ventured into the arena of Indian cooking, something totally new for me.  My daughter Randi and my son-in-law Dan both love Indian food, and when I told Randi I would be bringing this dish to her house tomorrow, she got really excited.  My son Danny tasted this, and agreed that it is delicious!  To me, these taste like a spicy version of hashed browns, with just the perfect amount of heat and just a subtle hint of cilantro. I’m so glad I tried this recipe!  Thank you Swapna!

This recipe makes about 15 potato patties.

  • 2 very large Idaho or Russet potatoes, washed
  • 2-4 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs, depending on how big your potatoes are (I use Colonna)
  • about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 or 2 small, dark green thin chiles, chopped fine (I used 2, but did not use the seeds), but you may if want more heat
  • about 10 cilantro leaves, torn or chopped into little pieces
  • light olive oil

Place one potato in microwave safe bowl with about 1/4 cup cold water.  Pierce a few times with fork, cover and cook on high for 3-5 minutes depending on size of potato.  Turn potato over, cover and cook another 3-5 minutes till soft.  Let cool, by pouring hot water out and putting a little cold water into bowl.  Turn potato over a few times in cold water.  Then peel potato with your hands.  Place in mixing bowl.  Repeat with second potato in microwave.  Mash first potato, then mash second potato when it is cooked, cooled, and mashed.  Add the salt, cilantro, the chiles, and the bread crumbs, and mix with a fork or gently with your clean hands. Put a little oil on your hands, and form into round patties about 2 to 3 inches round and about 1 inch thick.  Heat large nonstick frying pan up, add  some oil to coat, and gently place potato rounds in hot pan.  Let sit without turning until they are totally brown on bottom, about 5-8 minutes.  You may need to add a little more oil if pan becomes totally dry.  Turn when nicely browned on bottom, and cook till underside is brown, adding oil if necessary, about another 5-7 minutes.  Serve hot.

Note:  You may refrigerate them and serve them later after heating them in oven- 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Roasted Veggie Casserole

Last night, I tried a new recipe, which really is just a variation on roasted vegetables. I put some of my daughter’s favorite vegetables in this, knowing you just can’t go wrong with roasting vegetables.  I  brought it to my daughter Randi’s for a dinner side dish, and she and her husband loved it, as did I.  If fact Randi liked it so much, she ate it for her main course.

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (I used half extra virgin and half light, but any type is fine)
  • 2 pounds red potatoes, cut into slightly larger than bite size wedges, skin on
  • 3 large red bell peppers, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 container of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half, or 4 plum tomatoes cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red papper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an oval or rectangular 9 by 13 casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the potatoes, peppers, tomatoes in dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Drizzle remaining oil over, and toss with your hands to coat well with the oil to coat. Bake for about 45 minutes. Then take out of oven, and add olives, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley. Mix gently. Bake another 45-60 minutes. The longer you cook the vegetables, the more caramelized they will become, but the more they will shrink. So the longer you cook this, the smaller the yield. So if you don’t mind the vegetables not being really caramelized, reduce your cooking time.

Delicious Potato Kugel (for Passover or Anytime at all)

Make this  kugel- it’s like making a giant potato latke!

When I hear the phrase “potato kugel”, I remember back to when I was a very little girl.  My Grandma Fried lived in a small apartment in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  Maybe once a month, my father would take my brother Kenny and me to visit her.  My Grandma Fried was a very kind, sweet woman who had had a very hard life.  She was a very loving grandmother.  What I remember so well is when we walked into the apartment building, I immediately smelled the delicious aroma of my grandmother’s potato kugel.  I know that my father loved her potato kugel.  When I got married, I started to develop my own recipe for potato kugel.  My goal was to create a dish that would taste just like the best potato latke only bigger.  I achieved my goal.  This potato kugel recipe is perfect.  When you take a bite, it’s a little greasy, a little crunchy, and oh, so good! I like to make this recipe as a side dish for Rosh Hashana, Passover, or Shabbat.  It is so easy to make, and everyone loves it!

For a 10 x 15 baking dish                        For a 9 x 13 baking dish 

  • 5 pounds baking potatoes                              9 large potatoes

  • 7 extra large eggs                                            4 extra large eggs

  • 4 medium-large onions                                   3 med.-large onions

  • heavy 1 1/3 cups matzoh meal                     2/3 cup matzoh meal

  • 1 cup corn oil                                                    3/4 cup corn oil

  • additional oil for greasing dish                       additional oil 

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt                                 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pepper                                  1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cut potatoes into quarters.  Peel onions and cut into quarters.  Place one third of eggs, potatoes and onions into a blender.  Blend until mixture is the consistency of applesauce.  Pour the mixture into a very large mixing bowl.  Repeat this two more times to use all potatoes, onions, and eggs.  Then add matzoh meal, salt, and pepper to the potato mixture.  Mix with rubber spatula.

Grease the sides and bottom of either your 10 x 15 or the 9 x 13 pyrex baking dish with oil .  Then pour either the 1 cup or the 3/4 cup of oil into the dish.  Place in oven for about 5 minutes to get the oil really hot.  (If you think you might forget that your oil is in the oven, skip this step and just pour the room temperature oil into the batter; otherwise, you will have a fire if you leave the oil in the oven too long!) Then take the dish with the hot oil out of the oven and pour the hot oil into the potato mixture.  Mix with a rubber spatula to incorporate the oil.  Then pour the batter into the greased baking dish.  Bake for about 1 hour.  Take out of oven, and shmear a few additional tablespoons of oil over the top of the kugel.  Place back in oven for another 15-30 minutes until the top is very brown.  The kugel should be well browned on the bottom, the sides, and the top.

Note:  You may make this a day or two in advance, and then reheat it in a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes.

Shirley Fried’s and Judy’s Delectable Baked Stuffed Potatoes

My wonderful mother, Shirley Fried, had dinner parties when she and my father (the most amazing father in the world, Murray Fried) were a young married couple.  I guess I was just too little, because I have no memory of these parties.  My mother has reminisced fondly about those parties, and those days.  One of the side dishes she served was baked stuffed potatoes.  The potatoes are so easy to make and so elegant.  I have made them many times.  My kids love them.  I don’t know why I don’t make them more often.  Try them instead of a plain baked potato or mashed potatoes the next time you have a dinner party.  Your guests will love them!

  • baking potatoes, either Russet or Idaho (the size of the potato is up to you, but I usually use pretty large ones)
  • butter or Fleischmann’s margarine, at room temperature (1-2 tablespoons per potato)
  • a little milk (optional)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • paprika

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Wash as many potatoes as you like.  Using a fork, pierce the top of the potatoes in a few places.  Then bake the potatoes until they are totally baked.  The time will vary, depending on how large the potatoes are, but it will be somewhere around an hour to an hour and a half. 

Take the potatoes out of the oven.  Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the tops off the potatoes.  Make sure that your slice is no more than 1/4 inch from the top of the potato.  Then using a small spoon, scoop out all of the insides of the potatoes, and put it in a mixing bowl.  Add the room temperature butter or margarine, the milk, Kosher salt, a little pepper.  Use a fork or a potato masher and mix together well.  I use about 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine per potato.  Then, using a small spoon, gently put the potato mixture back into the potatoes.  The potato mixture should come up higher than the sides of the potato skin.  Sprinkle paprika over the top of the potatoes. 

You can prepare these in the morning for your dinner, and refrigerate them.  Place them back into a preheated 350 degree oven (uncovered) for about 30 minutes to get them piping hot.   

Very Best Potato Pancakes

This recipe is the one I developed and have used for years whenever my family is in the mood for potato pancakes.  These are the real thing.  I always make them by the dozens for Chanukah.  A few years ago, I included them in my menu for a Christmas Eve party at my boyfriend Jim’s house.  The funniest moment of the night to me was when one of the guests, who was Italian walked in and asked me if I was cooking potato latkes.  My potato pancakes disappeared as quickly as I served them.  For a party, I like to make them small, about the size of a silver dollar pancake.  I usually use matzo meal in them, but I have often used flour instead, and they come out fantastic.  They have a slightly lighter texture with the flour.  Try them both ways, and decide which you like better.  I serve them with apple sauce and sour cream.  They are extremely easy to make, so please try your hand at this.  You won’t regret it!

I usually double this recipe.

  • 3 large sized Idaho or russet potatoes
  • 2 large eggs or 1 jumbo egg
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour or matzo meal  
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying (for the best taste, use corn oil)
  • Sour cream and applesauce for serving

Peel and quarter the onion. Then peel potatoes, and pat them dry with paper towels, and quarter them. Crack egg or eggs into a blender. Add a few pieces of one potato, and then blend it. Then add the rest of the potatoes and the onion. Blend on high until the mixture is the consistency of apple sauce. The mixture should not be so pureed that it looks like liquid. It needs to be lumpy. But there should not be any whole pieces of potato or onion in it. When the blender is full, dump the mixture out into a large mixing bowl. If you are doubling the recipe, repeat and dump the mixture a second time into the large mixing bowl. Then add the matzo meal or flour, the salt, and pepper. Mix with a rubber spatula.

Heat oil ,about 1/8 to 1/4 inch high, in large frying pan over a medium to high heat (I use both non-stick and regular). Drop spoonfuls of batter into oil, about the size of silver dollar pancakes. You will be able to see when the latkes are really starting to brown. Loosen them with a good, sharp spatula from the pan, and if they are really browned on the bottom, flip them over. Then brown them on the other side. As they are done, take them out and put them on paper towels to drain. Flip them over on the paper towels to drain on the other side. Eat immediately with applesauce or sour cream. Or, you may freeze them once they have cooled.

If you are heating up your frozen latkes, take out as many as you wish right from the freezer, and put them into a preheated 375 to 400 degree oven on a sheet pan covered with aluminum foil, or a disposable cookie sheet with sides, and heat for about 15 minutes or until they are hot and bubbly.

Note: If I freeze them, I usually use an aluminum tin, and I make layers without overlapping the latkes, and I put a sheet of aluminum foil in between my layers.

Judy’s Outstanding Potato Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah has always been a wonderful holiday for me.  The special  childhood memories I have of Chanukah always include potato latkes.  When I was a little girl, I would, as usual, be in the kitchen when my mother was cooking.  I loved to stand right next to her as she made her latkes.  She used her mother’s (my Grandma Rose Hindes’s) delicous recipe.  My mother would make a batch of these, and then she would put them in the freezer for a dinner we’d have later in the week.  In other words, these latkes were not meant for immediate consumption.  As I stood next to my mother while she was frying the latkes, I prayed for these words to come out of my mother’s mouth- “Judy, you can have one.”  She always let me have at least one  (She would allow herself to take one too.) She also allowed me to pick off all the little crunchy browned bits around the edges of the latkes.  When I became a mother myself, I was so happy as the holiday of Chanukah approached because that meant it was time for me to start making my mother’s latke recipe.  I loved making them and calling my kids into the kitchen to tell them they could have some hot off the presses.  I also loved making lots and putting them in the freezer, just like my mother did.  There was nothing as gratifying, for me, as watching the expression on my children’s, my husband’s, or especially my mother’s or father’s faces as they put one of these incredible latkes in their mouths.  Please, understand that there is nothing hard about making these.  Once you get the hang of it, you will be making them by the dozens, too!

I usually double this recipe.

  • 3 large sized Idaho or russet potatoes 
  • 2 large eggs or 1 jumbo egg
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 1/4 cup of matzo meal or 1/4 cup flour (you can use flour, but I think the texture and flavor are better if you use matzo meal)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying (for the best taste, use corn oil)
  • Sour cream and applesauce for serving

Peel and quarter the onion.  Then peel potatoes, and pat them dry with paper towels, and quarter them.  Crack egg or eggs into a blender.  Add a few pieces of one potato, and then blend it.  Then add the rest of the potatoes and the onion.  Blend on high until the mixture is the consistency of apple sauce.  The mixture should not be so pureed that it looks like liquid.  It needs to be lumpy.  But there should not be any whole pieces of potato or onion in it.  When the blender is full, dump the mixture out into a large mixing bowl.  If you are doubling the recipe, repeat and dump the mixture a second time into the large mixing bowl.  Then add the matzo meal or flour, the salt, and pepper.  Mix with a rubber spatula. 

Heat oil ,about 1/8 to 1/4 inch high, in large frying pan over a medium to high heat (I use both non-stick and regular).  Drop  spoonfuls of batter into oil, about the size of silver dollar pancakes.  You will be able to see when the latkes are really starting to brown.  Loosen them with a good, sharp spatula from the pan, and if they are really browned on the bottom, flip them over.  Then brown them on the other side.  As they are done, take them out and put them on paper towels to drain.  Flip them over on the paper towels to drain on the other side.  Eat immediately with applesauce or sour cream.  Or, you may freeze them once they have cooled. 

If you are heating up your frozen latkes,  take out as many as you wish right from the freezer, and put them into a preheated 375 to 400 degree oven on a sheet pan covered with aluminum foil, or a disposable cookie sheet with sides, and heat for about 15 minutes or until they are hot and bubbly. 

Note:  If I freeze them, I usually use an aluminum tin, and I make layers without overlapping the latkes, and I put a sheet of aluminum foil in between my layers.    

  

Grandma Hindes’s Brenta (Jewish Hash Browns)

If I had to name our family’s absolute favorite recipe, I think this would be the one.  You have to understand the history of this recipe.  My mother’s mother Rose, my grandma, was a wonderful, Jewish, European cook.  From what my mother told me, she was a self-taught cook.  She definitely cooked typical Jewish, European recipes, but in my opinion, no one made them better.  My mother often mused about how she didn’t appreciate her  mother’s wonderful cooking when she was growing up, and how she didn’t really start to appreciate her mother’s cooking talent until she got married herself.  My grandmother didn’t use complicated ingredients in her food; her cooking was simple but delicious.  One of her greatest pleasures was cooking for her husband, my grandpa, her children, her children’s spouses, and her grandchildren.  Every Friday night my cousins, Paul, Bobby, and Janie were dropped off at my grandparents’ house for a delicious Friday night (Shabbat) dinner.  Only a few times did I get to eat with them.  I loved those times.  Anyway, from what I remember, the dinner consisted of pot roast, chicken fricassee with little meatballs, and brenta.  (I’m not sure what the rest of the meal was.)  As far as I’ve been told, brenta was an original creation of my grandmother’s.  Brenta means “burned” in Yiddish. My grandmother’s brenta was the most delicious food I ate as a child.  Luckily, my mother made brenta every other Friday night for us as a side dish (the main course was brisket).  I became my mother’s personal brenta assistant.  I learned the technical art of turning the brenta properly, and I took over making the brenta from beginning to end.  The best part of making the brenta was picking out delectable morsels when it was done and popping them in my mouth.  Oh, it was so good!  The last and most important part of the job for me was carrying the bowl of brenta over to the kitchen table.  Why?  Of course, so I could be the one to put all the best pieces on my plate.  My poor brother, Kenny got shafted by his greedy sister again.  If you ask him, he will tell you that he still hasn’t forgiven me, and he is not joking!  Well, when I had my children, I started making Friday night dinners and having my parents over, and both my mother and father were so happy when I would bring a magnificent bowl of brenta to the table.  Luckily, my children and my husband adored my brenta, too.  The consensus was that my brenta was definitely as good as my mother’s and my grandmother’s brenta.  Right now, I am working on teaching my daughter Randi the art of making brenta, because we need to keep the family tradition going.   

  • 5 pounds  Russet or Idaho potatoes
  • corn oil -about half of a one quart bottle
  • Kosher salt
  • water

Wash and peel potatoes.  Cut into medium sided chunks and place in a pot or bowl of cold water.  You can do this a few hours in advance and keep them in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.  Drain the potatoes in a colander.  Then pour the potatoes into a very large non-stick skillet (I use a 12 inch pan for this).  Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of corn oil over the potatoes.  Then pour about 1 cup of cold water over all. 

Put a cover over the skillet.  I don’t have a cover large enough, so I put my largest cover directly over the potatoes instead of over the pan.  Put the flame on high.  After about 20 minutes, when the potatoes are a little soft, remove the top.  Let the potatoes brown, without turning them.  Then turn them, and let them brown again.  I squish a spatula down on the potatoes a few times to mush up some of them to make some of the pieces smaller.  You just keep letting them cook 10 minutes or so, and then you turn them.  If you think the potatoes are not soft enough, you can always add a little more water to them, and recover them for a few minutes.  If the potatoes don’t seem to have enough oil to brown in, add a little more oil.  When the potatoes are burned in parts, and really browned well, you can put them in a large bowl that you have lined with layers of paper towels.  Wrap the towels around them and flip over.  Wait about  3 or 4 minutes and unroll them from the paper towels, as you dump them into the bowl.  Sprinkle them sufficiently with the kosher salt to taste and bring your masterpiece to the table. Five pounds of brenta will disappear right in front of your eyes!

Note:  The actual cooking time is about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  In recent years, I have used red potaotes and not peeled them, but I still think they come out best when you use  Idaho’s or Russets, and you peel them.