Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Sorry Knight Rider, This Potato is Not Named After You.

In Germany, David Hasselhoff of "Knight Rider" fame is treated more like a god than just another actor.  However, in Stockholm, Sweden, it is not every restaurant that gets a dish named after it.  The Hasselbacken Hotel (opened in 1748) introduced a new potato dish on its menu in the 1940's, The Hasselback Potato.  While you could say it is just a baked potato, the way it is prepared, and looks, distinguishes it from just any old baked potato.  Slits are cut crosswise along the top, and length, of the potato; careful to leave 1/4 of an inch uncut along the bottom.  A bread crumb topping is loaded on top and pushed slightly into the slits; olive oil and butter gives a slightly naughty decadence to the fanned-out potato.  This type of potato dish is also called in Ireland "Accordion Potatoes" for its resemblance to the musical instrument.  In France, with the addition of Parmesan cheese, it is known as a "Potato Fan".

The recipe I made, and will give instruction for, is the original recipe from the Hasselbacken Hotel.  A medium sized, oval shaped, baking potato is best for this unique side dish. The larger sized is best if serving this potato dish as a meal in itself.  Small potatoes, such as Fingerlings, do not fare well during the cutting and baking processes.  Originally, the topping was simply dried bread crumbs, salt, ground black pepper and butter; olive oil was a cooking medium.  Of course, nowadays, the addition of cheeses, herbs, vegetables and/or bacon can give this potato dish a whole new swing.  If using cheese, it is best to use a grated texture from a hard rind type of cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan mixed into the dried bread crumbs. A quickly melting cheese such as Cheddar or Swiss could be used, but in the final 15 minutes of the baking process; however, the chance of covering up the "fan" effect is very possible.

For the addition of bacon, slice bacon strips into one-inch pieces, freeze them solid and then insert into the cuts randomly; about 5-6 pieces per potato.  As the potatoes bake, the bacon fat will melt to give the potato extra fluffiness and deep bacon flavoring.  Chopped fresh herbs and/or petite diced vegetables such as green onion or mushrooms need to be mixed in melted butter, spooned over the potatoes and baked during the final 15 minutes.  You want these items to warm up, but not be thoroughly roasted into obscurity.  The olive oil that sits in the bottom of the baking dish will give the potato a golden browned, crusty bottom to sit upon...sort of like getting a baked and fried potato at the same time.

Imagine, for the coming holiday meals, instead of plain potatoes, serving up these fancy baked potatoes.  Your family and guests will be impressed!


The Hasselback Potato


4 Tbsp. olive oil

2 long baking potatoes (about 6 oz. each)

1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

4 Tbsp. melted butter



Peel each potato; cut a 1/4-inch slice from one long side of the potato.  This will allow it to lay flat and not roll during the cutting or baking processes.  Place a clean rubber band around the potato, ¼-inch up from the flat bottom, to use as a guide.  With a sharp knife, make 1/8-inch slices crosswise along the entire length of the potato being careful not to go past the rubber band.  Remove the rubber band and immerse the potatoes in cold water for 5 minutes; slightly move the slices apart, but be careful not to break them.  Immersing in water will also help to remove extra starch from the potatoes and keep them from turning brown.


Preheat oven to 450F; coat bottom of small baking dish (large enough to accommodate both potatoes, but leave room between each) with olive oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, salt, black pepper and one tablespoon of butter.  Remove potatoes from water, pat dry and brush with a half tablespoon of butter; press the bread crumb mixture onto each potato; use the dull side of a knife to slightly press a little mixture into some of the potato slits.  Place potatoes into the baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes.  Remove the foil, drizzle a tablespoon of the remaining butter over each potato; bake for an additional 15 minutes.


Makes two servings.

So instead of a plain baked potato, try something a little fancier...a Hasselhoff; oops, sorry; a Hasselback Potato.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Fungus Fun

A mushroom is the spore baring body of a fungus which grows in damp, dank soil in shaded areas.  Cultivating your own mushroom crop can be achieved by setting up an area, in the basement, which is kept dark and soil is moist.  However, if you are like myself, and the home has no basement, two choices are left, buy or hunt.  Depending on how populated an area you live in, the local markets will carry the typical white button mushroom, but they will also carry other varieties (cremini, portobello, enoki, chanterelle, oyster, etc.).  Not all mushrooms are the same as they each have their own flavor, texture, even scent, and experimenting with the varieties is basically how you will find out what works with the recipe you are trying to create.  For example, portobello mushrooms have a firm texture and beefy taste; a large grilled portobello can take the place of a beef hamburger for vegetarians.

But, but mushrooms are a fungus!  These edible fungi, believe it or not, do have health benefits for the human body. They contain macronutrients that support a healthy immune system, one of which is Selenium, which helps the body make antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage.  

Hunting for mushrooms is something that should not be done willy-nilly.  Like with many bushes that bear berries, just because they look delicious does not mean they are safe to eat.  During the summer months, we often find puff ball mushrooms growing in the backyard.  While these are deemed one of the safest mushrooms to eat, you still have to be careful when picking them. 


Puff balls (Calvatia gigantea) are, typically, white, volley-ball shape and texture, with no stem or frilly exterior parts.  They are firm and solid inside, and if kicked, do not explode into dust filled with spores.  However, when picking them, especially in forested areas, watch for two other mushrooms that look like puff balls, but are poisonous to ingest.  Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum) while firm, has a springy or elastic feel to the body, and the interior becomes dark purplish-black with white lines.  Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) can look like a puff ball mushroom when looking downwards at it.  However, it has the shape of, similar to, a Chinese wide brimmed hat, sits on a longest stem which has a frilly “skirt”, and the underside of the mushroom is lined, not smooth.  Death Caps cause liver poisoning, failure and, as the name implies, death.









So far, I have not been able to find any classes, except online, that teach about foraging for wild mushrooms.  That led me to purchasing a book, Mushrooms: How to Identify and Gather Wild Mushrooms and Other Fungi, by DK, that has a five-star rating, is described as, “…beautifully illustrated guide contains everything you need to help you on your next foraging adventure.”  The photographs and descriptions of each mushroom (edible and poisonous) are very detailed, and clearly give the “mushroom hunter” much needed knowledge to pick, and eat safely.  However, if still unsure if the fungi you have picked is safe, it would be a very good idea to find an expert to verify you are not about to poison yourself, or others.  Better safe than dead.

Now, whether store bought, or picked in the wild, mushrooms should be cleaned.

It is best to clean mushrooms right before using them, and the easiest way to clean mushrooms is brush each one carefully with a mushroom brush or a damp paper towel. If the mushrooms are very dirty, give them a quick rinse, and dry them off immediately.  Mushrooms get slimy if allowed to sit wet, and do not store well in refrigeration for very long as they pick up the moisture.


When it comes to cooking, mushrooms are versatile.  Battered and deep fried, served with a horseradish sauce for dipping, they become a fantastic appetizer.  











Cooked down into a rich ragu with olive oil, port wine, beef broth and heavy cream becomes an amazing topping over beef, chicken, pork, and the delight of hunters, version or elk. 


Mushroom Ragu


¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 lb. mushroom mix (cremini, oyster, enoki), roughly chopped

1/8 tsp. salt and pepper

½ cup port

2 cups beef broth**

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp. dry Italian herbal mix


In a large skillet, medium heat, sauté’ onion till soft; add garlic and sauté’ for 2 additional minutes. Add mushroom mix, salt, pepper; mix thoroughly. Increase heat to high, remove pan from stove, add port and return to heat; let alcohol burn off. Add broth and let simmer until liquid is reduced by half; stir occasionally to keep from sticking. Add heavy cream, herbal mix; mix thoroughly and spoon mixture over sliced meat.

**Note: if serving over chicken or other poultry, use chicken broth instead.

Makes 4-6 servings.


Mushrooms can be added to Asian cuisines, and are often seen in stir-fry dishes.  Want a burger to be the ultimate in taste and texture?  Saute’ sliced onions and mushrooms together, in equal parts olive oil and butter, season with salt and pepper, until edges begin to brown.  Layer on top of the burger and cover with a slice, or two, of baby Swiss cheese…oh, do not forget to toast that bun.  Take that first bite, and hello food heaven!

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Fusing Waffles with Pot Pie and Fried Chicken.

Waffles, a dish developed during Medieval Times.  Pot Pie, a dish originally created by the ancient Greeks, around 500 BCE.  Fried Chicken, a dish around for centuries, cooked up by West African slaves in the south, and that made a Colonel a household name.  Put all three together and the fusion of chicken and waffles was born.

Waffles are made from a batter, also used to make pancakes, which is baked inside a hot iron device. The device is basically two iron plates connected by a hinge which have a distinctive square indented pattern, and molds come in either a round or a square shape. The waffle originated in the Medieval Ages where the device was heated over a fire, and the batter created a light, crispy, and very thin “wafer”. With the invention of baking powder, the modern waffle could be created; and it can go beyond being a breakfast item. A solid square of ice cream between two small waffle squares becomes the “waffle ice cream sandwich”; an excellent treat anytime.

We are probably used to the “regular” waffle which is typically about ¼ inch in thickness.  But, have you ever eaten Belgium waffles?  While they require the same ingredients of flour, milk, eggs, butter or oil, these waffles include egg whites and yeast, not baking powder.  They are fluffier, about one inch in thickness, lighter and crispier in texture, and have deeper “pockets” for holding melted butter, syrups or preserves.  Now, use two Belgium waffles to create that ice cream sandwich, and fully experience, “I am in dessert heaven” overload.

While waffles are usually looked upon as a breakfast item, they can be served at lunch or dinner and mainly paired with chicken. In the Southern United States, fried chicken was often paired with waffles; the typical breakfast accessories of syrup and butter accompanied the waffles. While fried chicken has been made round the world, for centuries, it was the slaves of West Africa who introduced it to the southern colonists of the new world.  There is really no set recipe for the fried chicken used for southern style chicken and waffles.  Whether you buy a bucket of the Colonel’s own, use your granny’s homemade recipe, or heat up a box of the frozen kind found in the supermarket, make sure the waffles are large and in charge.


In Pennsylvania, the Amish serve the waffles covered with chicken and vegetables that have been cooked in gravy (brown or white).  Finding out the origin of pot pie was, at first, a surprise, and then it became a, “oh, that explains it”.  As I mentioned before, the Ancient Greeks originally made meat pies, called artocreas, with a bottom crust, but no top crust, and cooked in clay pots, hence “pot pies”.  The Romans went one step better by adding a top crust made from oil and flour.  Alright history buffs, the Romans invaded the lands, of what we call Europe, so it should not be any wonder that their cuisine came with them.  With the help of William Penn, of England, the Amish, persecuted, for their religious beliefs, were able to immigrate to the new world.  Where?  Pennsylvania, named after?  Yes!  William Penn.

History lesson over, now let’s make some chicken and waffles.

How to Make Waffles


2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

2 eggs, separated

1 ¾ cups milk (or buttermilk)

4 Tbsp melted butter


Preheat waffle maker.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder; set aside.  In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until they just start to hold a peak; not stiff; set aside.

In another small bowl, whisk egg yolks with milk and melted butter; gradually whisk this mixture into the dry ingredients, but not till completely smooth. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites and the batter will thicken.

Follow the waffle machine’s manufacturer’s directions on amount of batter to use for each waffle and cooking time.

Makes 4-6 waffles depending on maker used.


Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken and Waffles


1 small roasting chicken (2 and ½ lbs. to 3 lbs.)

2 Tbsp. butter

1 cup mixture of diced onion, carrot and celery

5 cups chicken broth

¼ cup flour

½ tsp. ground black pepper


Roast and shred chicken meat.  While chicken was roasting, melt butter in small skillet, over medium heat, and sauté vegetables until softened; set aside.

In a medium stockpot, over medium-high heat, bring chicken broth to a boil; whisk in flour quickly and incorporate well.  Reduce heat to low, add in chicken, vegetables and black pepper; cook for 20 minutes.

Ladle over prepared waffles.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Mary Cokenour