Hanging out at a friend’s house last week, I watched a gray mist settle in over the Panhandle and listened as the wind rattled the old, Victorian windows. Autumn had officially arrived, bringing with it a satisfyingly chilly blast of San Francisco fog.
Maybe I’m a bit of a curmudgeon, but I’m always relieved when the weather is no longer relentlessly warm and sunny. It’s finally time to pull out my arsenal of sweaters, boots, and scarves, making for no-fuss, stylish outfits for the next six months. And never mind that it doesn’t really get cold enough here to warrant a proper winter coat — I’ll wear one whenever the day’s forecast predicts a dip below room temperature.
Oh, and fall recipes are pretty great, too. I don’t know about you, but once it gets cold outside, I am much happier to spend time in the kitchen. Drawing inspiration from hearty, seasonal produce, dreaming up warm and comforting foods with which to nourish my family and friends, I’m finally in my culinary wheelhouse. Summer might be great for more effortless, throw-together recipes, but in all honesty, I’m not an effortless, throw-together kind of cook. Fall cooking takes time, planning, and lots of love, and I look forward to it every year.
This week’s recipe is inspired by my buddy Katy, inventor of the SmugSmoothie and intrepid world traveler. She is currently living in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and doesn’t have too many nice things to say about Dutch food (if you haven’t seen the Katy-related posts on my facebook page lately, consider yourself spared). She has asked me to improve on Dutch recipes so that she can recreate my versions for her homestay family, and I am more than happy to oblige! You would too after hearing about the food she’s endured lately. A hint — there were smashed up Doritos involved in one ill-fated “Mexican” dinner.
. . . And so, I have decided to make a very traditional Dutch dish this week — stamppot. Consisting of mashed potatoes, root vegetables, and greens, it is hearty and comforting, and full of nutrition. There are many different types of stamppot, each featuring different vegetables and greens, but the prevalent theme is the method: Boil vegetables in water, mash vegetables roughly, add butter. Popular toppings and mix-ins include sauerkraut, gravy, bacon, and rookworst, or smoked sausage.
For today’s stamppot makeover, I’ve taken some of the vegetables out of the boiling pot and into the saute pan, adding a bit of caramelized flavor to the finished dish. Cabbage and leeks are much happier when they are sauteed in a bit of fat — it allows their sweetness to intensify, and preserves their texture, too. My sauteing medium of choice was already full of flavor, too — I cooked the cabbage and leeks in some savory pan drippings from last night’s roasted chicken. Finally, ground black pepper and a handful of chopped parsley help to pretty up the finished dish. Since the stamppot is so flavorful on its own, there’s no need for the extra salty, meaty toppings. Enjoyed on its own or as a side dish (I can see this being a great Thanksgiving recipe), it’s a wonderful addition to your repertoire of fall recipes!
Stamppot (printer-friendly version)
4 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled, halved, and quartered
3 large carrots, diced
2 medium parsnips, diced
2 medium rutabagas, diced
1 quart water
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. pan drippings from roasted chicken, or olive oil
1 large leek, halved lengthwise, sliced thinly, rinsed well, and drained
1 medium savoy cabbage, cored, cut into eighths, and sliced into 1/4″-thick ribbons
3 Tbsp. butter
salt to taste
1 large sprig flat leaf parsley, chopped
freshly ground pepper
1. Place the potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and rutabagas in a medium (5-quart) dutch oven. Add water and salt, making sure water just barely covers vegetables (add more if needed). Place over a medium flame, bring to a boil, then turn down to low and let simmer for 15 minutes.
2. While the root vegetables are cooking, heat the pan drippings or olive oil in a large (12-inch), covered non-stick skillet over medium flame. Add the leek, stir, then cover for 5 minutes.
3. Once leeks are softened and just beginning to brown, remove lid and add cabbage. Stir to combine, then cover and leave to cook for another 10 minutes. Remove cover, let stir, and saute for another 3 minutes.
4. Drain the root vegetables in a large colander. Once well-drained, return to the dutch oven. Add the butter, then use a potato masher to roughly mash the mixture — you still want some lumps.
5. Add the leek and cabbage to the mashed vegetables in the dutch oven. Stir until just combined.
6. Spoon into bowls or onto plates, garnish with parsley and black pepper, and serve hot.