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Talk about a spring tease! The last few days in New York City felt like full-fledged spring, but my Buffalo bones (and NY1) tell me there’s more winter on the horizon. Apparently it’s gonna rain on my birthday, and March’s madness is likely to keep us guessing till we turn the corner on April, and usher in more rain. So in these fleeting weeks of winter it’s wise to hit up local farmers’ markets and celebrate the changing seasons with some last stitch frosted fare.
Come springtime and more temperate weather, I’ll be much more inclined to turn off the oven, leave my apartment, and spend a night out enjoying the warm breeze over a cold drink. Until that day is on my doorstep, however, I’m relishing these last few weeks of shameless hibernation. Spring’s harvest will liberate me from my self-imposed isolation, inducing impromptu spring flings featuring asparagus, fennel and peppery radishes, all of which seem to taste better with the most negligent amount of preparation. But while we wait for spring to bloom, I recommend taking advantage of the warmth that my more indulgent comfort-chic recipes have to offer. Specifically, I recommend staying in and getting smashed…
Enter my Bourbon Braised Truffle Smashed Potatoes! No ordinary side dish, these spuds exemplify my philosophy for comfort-chic cooking: hometown recipes with a haute cuisine twist. Baby red bliss and fingerling potatoes are kissed with truffle oil, crème fraiche, and bourbon braised mushroom caps before getting topped with dollops of truffle butter, and if you’ve got it to spare, truffle infused salt. Trust me, these taters steal the spotlight from any meal and are worthy of breaking your vow of solitude and inviting a guest to dinner to gush over your ode to the last of winter’s rooted wonders.
My Tribe was getting a little sick of my seclusion, particularly Celest. So last week I decided to show her (or more accurately, to feed her) my reasons for treasuring these final few chilly nights at home alone. Celest dragged her Meyer lemon self to my place, and I greeted her at the door with my signature hot toddy. Made from the same bottle of bourbon I poured into the pan to braise my mushrooms, the toddy is a veritable cure-all for most things that ail you, including the cold. Garnished with slices of clove-spiked lemon and a cinnamon sipping straw, Celest cradled her drink and nestled herself into my couch, awaiting the rest of our evening’s hibernation-inspired menu.
I handed her a plate of garlicky quail egg toasts to momentarily sate her growing appetite, and put the finishing touches on our steaks au poivre. As we dished up the truffle smash and tucked into my most comforting recipes around my coffee table, Celest, a little woozy from the bourbon and a touch firery from the spicy ‘nduja I slipped beneath her quail eggs, acquiesced that she understood my lingering nostalgia for the months when a great night requires nothing more than a great home-cooked meal. She added, “But you’re cheating! Truffles make everything better.” Indeed they do, which is why I chose a truffle of another variety to round out our dindin and treated her to my dark chocolate bourbon bonbons for dessert. All she could do was coo.
Bourbon Braised Truffle Smashed Potatoes (serves a crowd)
• 1 lb baby Red Bliss Potatoes
• 1 lb Fingerling or Butter Yellow Potatoes
• 1 tub Truffle Butter
• 1 tub Crème Friache
• Truffle Oil
• Truffle Salt
• 2 lb Mushroom Caps (sliced)
• 1 Shallot (diced)
• 1 shot Bourbon
• Salt & Pepper
Slice the potatoes into evenly sized 1 inch chunks; then boil them skin-on until tender (about 20 minutes). When boiling potatoes, I always put them in a pot first, and then fill that pot with water till the potatoes are completely covered. Be sure to heavily salt the water with several pinches of kosher salt, and then cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat.
While the potatoes boil, prep the mushrooms. Braising mushrooms is a simple preparation that I return to again and again for most of my mushroom creations. In this instance, I throw a tablespoon of truffle butter in a sauté pan and add 1 diced shallot. As the shallot turns golden and fragrant, throw in your mushrooms (any variety will work) and a splash of truffle oil to make sure every mushroom slice gets a hit of fat. Season with truffle salt and pepper, though kosher salt will do in a “pinch.” Pour a shot of bourbon into the pan over high heat and allow the alcohol to burn off (about 1 minute). If you’re stove gets hot enough, the mushrooms will flambé so be prepared for fire. Once the flames die down, cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-high. After the mushrooms have released all their juices (about 7 minutes) remove the cover and allow the excess liquid to reduce (about 2 minutes more), leaving but a few tablespoons of “mushroom gravy” in the pan. Set aside.
Once the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander and transfer them to a Kitchen Aid mixer for smashing (if you don’t have a handy-dandy mixer, you can always use good old fashioned elbow grease and a time-honored potato masher). As you smash your potatoes, add the remaining truffle butter, 2 tablespoons of truffle oil and your tub of crème fraiche. Season the spuds with truffle salt and fold in the mushrooms and gravy, being sure to leave a little mushroom love aside to use as garnish for your pots.