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Twice Baked Potatoes

twice baked potatoes

It’s one of those days when a great little side dish is needed and there isn’t much around the house except the usual kinds of things you might find in almost any house — OK, well my house, anyway. That’s where these twice baked potatoes come into play. You get a good, filling, side dish that you can dress up just about any way you like (within reason) and end up with something plain, fancy or maybe something in-between.

This recipe is pretty much a basic version, with a little bit of Italian to it. You’ll need a bit of Parmesan cheese, garlic, chives, butter, sour cream and milk and that’s about it. You could also do bacon-cheddar and a whole host of other possibilities. Your call. I think there is probably a limit to what you might do to each potato, but it still leaves a whole lot of room to play, if you’re willing.

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A Little More Soup: This Time It’s Split Pea Soup

split pea soup

I haven’t forgotten about soups! There’s a rule somewhere, that says I can’t write about soups everyday, or every three days, or whatever. And then there’s a rule that says I should write about soups and the rest of you can wait until I get done. So, I’m going to try to split the difference. Which brings us to one of the best creamy soups I’ve ever made — a nice little split pea soup.

I don’t remember a good soup I don’t like, so I’m not much of a fair guide on this. But this soup’s got a rich creamy texture that doesn’t come from eggs or cream, but from a small addition of potatoes instead.  That does something that’s makes this soup slightly different. And it’s also vegetarian (though you could use chicken stock and butter, if you like). What really sets this off, though, is the little addition of bacon and a whole lot of tarragon for the garnish. It adds just the right touch of finesse. 

Oh, and yes, the peas come through like you wouldn’t believe.

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Chicken Tikka Masala — A Little Indian?

chicken tikka masala

Indian food is one of those things I’d like to get my hands and arms around. So here’s a first start. This chicken tikka masala is a relatively easy dish that probably isn’t much like a real, honest to goodness tikka masala, but it’s very tasty and begins to warm the heart up for some more authentic Indian cooking down the road.

Now, to be honest, it may well be the case that the dish actually was made in Glasgow, Scotland (though by an Indian chef in a local restaurant there), using chicken tikka and a spicy garlic sauce with tomatoes and yogurt. There are also some indications it was first made in India and brought over. 

By Wikipedia: Chicken tikka masala is chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, that is then baked in a tandoor oven, and served in a masala (spice mix) sauce. A tomato and coriander sauce is common, but there is no standard recipe. Indeed, a survey found that of 48 different recipes, the only common ingredient was chicken. 

Which is a great way to start a recipe, actually, because there really isn’t a final version you have to adhere to. We also skipped the tandoor oven (which should be a given for an American chicken).

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Arctic Char and Mustard Seed Sauce

arctic char mustard seeds

Arctic Char, when you can get it fresh, is one of those things you can’t pass up ever. Of course, then you’ve got to figure out how to cook the char without a) overcooking it and b) finding a really good way to show off the flavor of the fish without overpowering it.

This recipe does both things. By slow roasting the fish at 250 degrees, you can cook the fish without too much worry about overcooking, and the mustard seed sauce gives the fish a nice bit of just slightly bitter topping without really messing up the flavor of the dish. It’s really a good combination. And although mustard seeds may not be always easy to find, they’re plentiful enough you really shouldn’t have too much trouble.

Beyond that, there really isn’t much to say about the recipe. It’s elegant and it comes away from the table with a “very nice” kind of feeling — much like when you know you’ve had just enough to be happy but not really overly full.

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Corn with Thyme and a Little Garlic Butter

Corn with Thyme and Garlic Butter

There is nothing better than a great little side dish that adds just a hint of spice, and a bit of filling stuff without messing up that grand presentation you’ve got coming for the main dish. That’s where this little corn with thyme dish comes into play. I haven’t done a lot of side dishes here at Discovery Cooking, but this one, no matter how simple, is one you should always have around.

First off, the corn. When the late summer and early fall are on the line, good fresh corn right from the farmer’s market is definitely in order here. There is nothing quite like good fresh corn, and there is nothing quite like it. Trouble is, for most of us, that’s a pretty small window to hit. If your one of those lucky ones who have corn you’ve actually canned, that’s generally a good substitute. For the rest of us, high-quality frozen corn is often what we’re left with, but guess what? It’s often way better than some of the two and three-day old corn sold as fresh in the super markets. So there.

The second thing to remember is the thyme. If you can’t get fresh thyme, don’t even try this. The thyme is what gives this dish most of the flavor and there is nothing quite like that flavor.  Good news, if you’re growing some thyme in the backyard, but in most days, you can now get fresh thyme in most grocery stores. The main thing is to add the thyme a little bit at a time until you’ve got just the right amount, and that may vary from when and where you’ve got it.

Add in just a little garlic in the butter sauce and you’re on your way.

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Balsamic Chicken Thighs

balsamic chicken thighs

Balsamic chicken thighs are one of those little twists that can make an ordinary meal into something special. They’re relatively cheap, but the balsamic vinegar and the mushrooms turns them into a feast for anyone looking to put a nice fancy dinner on a plate. They’re perfect if company shows up without notice (the sauce and other ingredients can be added to for increased sizes) and they take so little time to make, you can take a few minutes to visit while they’re cooking.

The thighs are browned  and then put aside  while the onions and mushrooms cook, then returned and cooked with a simple balsamic vinegar  sauce that’s easy but adds a flavorful sauce that’s really to die for. This is one of our favorites at Discovery Cooking.

And best of all, they leave plenty of time to get some great side dishes to go with them.

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Lamb with Browned Butter and Garlic

lamb with browned butter

This is another quick way to do something special and nice, but lamb with browned butter needs nothing but some good lamb, browned butter and garlic. You really can’t mess this up.  Perhaps the only trick is to use enough garlic to get it where you want it, and that probably takes more than you think. And just a little fresh basil at the end sends it right to the top. 

If you’ve never worked with browned butter, there is a little quirk that really helps, which is to pay close attention to the temp range. A little too low and nothing much happens, a little too high, it gets brown and what I like to think of as “muddy” in a real hurry. So pay attention to the pan and adjust temps as needed to keep it right in that stage where it browns very nicely and you’ll be just fine.

The lamb chops really take care of themselves — a long blast on either side and you’re done. Maybe the whole dish takes maybe seven minutes or maybe just a bit longer, remove the lamb and add a little basil, then pour the browned butter over the chops and you’re done. Seriously, it takes more time to make the noodles than it does the lamb.

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