Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Baker, the Farmer & the Sailor

Polpettini al Forno di Patate, Cicoria, Parmigiano e Gamberetti
Baked Potato, Chicory & Parmesan Cakes with Shrimp

Yes, this evening I WAS a bit of a baker, a farmer and a fisherman... at heart at least :-) Whilst preparing this little meal, which was baked in the oven (baker), made of potato and wild chicory (farmer) and then topped with juicy shrimp (fisherman)- with a little love and a sprinkle of spice thrown in for good measure, it turned out to be such a yummy treat that any baker, farmer or sailor would have been happy to have squeezed in at the table with me to enjoy... and you would have too!

As is so often the case with my recipes... this was improvised and made from the left-over leaves of wild chicory - which are the outer leaves of the puntarelle I prepared as a salad on Saturday, and a couple of potatoes. Sometimes you don't need much more than that to start an idea... which then develops into a little more thought and ends up as a yummy dish like this!

So- here we go! I took two medium sized potatoes and cut them into quarters and a couple of handfuls of chicory which I cut into fine strips... these went into a saucepan with just enough water to cover them and were boiled for 15 minutes until they were soft enough to drain and mash. No, they were not "perfectly cooked"- that came in the next step, when I added milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper until they were a nice smooth puree, and then stirred on a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until they became totally blended together. 

The bitterness of the chicory is a pleasant change from the usual mild flavor we are accustomed to- but there was plenty that I still wanted to add before I was done! The first thing I added was bread crumbs... and of course, you will want to know how much! Well... as much as it takes! You need to add them little by little and work them in whilst the potatoes are warm... firstly, because then they will absorb any excess moisture and secondly- because they will help cool the potatoes off and so you will not have to wait so long to get things done!

The next thing I added was parmesan cheese- a good handful! Potatoes love to do a disappearing act with salt when you boil them, so you will need the extra seasoning anyway. And then came my secret ingredient... which might surprise you- but I added a teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning into the mix as well- yum! I do really like it with shrimp- so this was a good way to bring all of these strange and mixed-up flavors together!

A good way to hold my little potato cakes together was the addition of an egg yolk- and that was the final ingredient, before stirring the mixture up thoroughly one last time and then spooning it out into a muffin tray which I coated lightly with olive oil. And then on went the shrimp and a very light last sprinkle of parmesan and a gentle rub with olive oil. Into a pre-heated oven they went for 40-45 minutes at around 300°F, with a final 3-4 minutes under the broiler... yummy!

I served them with a little tomato, oregano and basil for a bit of freshness and a sprinkle of coarse salt and crushed pink pepper corns. And that is quite a lot of flavor for such a simple dish! Which I think is really kinda great! What do you think? ;-) 

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