Posts tagged ‘mashed potato’

November 25th, 2011

The day I acutally enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner

I must have done it right, because It’s the day after thanksgiving, and I’m still full.  Sure, half of America is saying that right now, but for me, it’s the first time I’ve ever uttered those words AFTER Thanksgiving.

You see, I don’t like turkey.  Let me rephrase that, I used to not like turkey.  For some reason, every time I ate it, there was this strange “turkey” flavor that I couldn’t get over.  But, something happened at dinner yesterday that not only changed my long-standing opinion of turkey, but actually made me say the following four words, “I love this meal!”

There are millions of restaurants out there, but how many of them do you go back to over and over, every time leaving happy? Not many.  Stefan’s at L.A. Farm is our exception.  We always leave satisfied.  It’s hard to believe that from one restaurant, I’ve discovered so much great American food.  Now, I can proudly add Thanksgiving dinner to that list.  While the entire meal was delicious, a few dishes, on their own, actually changed my opinion on Thanksgiving dinner.

As I explained yesterday, my husband picked Stefan’s for our first ‘restaurant’ Thanksgiving dinner from just looking at their menu.  Why did he pick Stefan’s?  The menu offered the straight forward, classic Thanksgiving meal he was hoping for: roasted turkey, gravy, stuffing, yams and yes, mashed potatoes, which he believes is a must dish for Thanksgiving.  Judging from their regular menu, I was expecting a good meal, but I have to admit, I was reluctant that I had to eat turkey as a my main dish.  As we were driving to the restaurant, I even said to my husband “if I don’t like the turkey, we’ll just stop at a Japanese noodle shop later.”

Surprise, surprise, I actually loved turkey!  Instead of that strange taste I was expecting, I enjoyed only flavorful tender meat.

Another dish I don’t like is yams.  It’s usually served either very, very sweet, and/or too watery.  The texture of the marshmallows placed on top usually doesn’t sweeten the deal for me either. With a combination like that, you can imagine that the idea of candied yams is not at all appetizing for me.  But tonight, Stefan’s baked yams with marshmallows completely won me over.  The marshmallows were slightly crunchy and the yams were cooked sweet, but in a very delicate degree.  Finally, it made sense that these two should be served together, or should I say, three, as the dish went well with the turkey!

It’s hard to believe that it took me a quarter of a century to truly appreciate the Thanksgiving meal.  So to honor the tradition of Thanksgiving, let me say how thankful I am that my husband insisted on picking a restaurant with mashed potatoes.  I’m also thankful for Chef Stefan and his staff who always treat us like family!

November 24th, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Every year, as if he forgot, my husband asks: If we were in Japan during November, would I be able to cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal?  My answer, ‘yes, and no’.  The side dishes would be a snap, but the turkey itself, would be a more difficult issue.  Japanese people don’t really eat turkey, and finding it in Tokyo would probably earn me a long trip to what we jokingly call ‘Americatown’, where restaurants and stores are mostly geared to tourists who need that quick burger to re-energize before exploring the rest of the city.
Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the taste of turkey, I have grown to love cooking the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  My husband proudly states that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday, and when asked to explain, will offer you three points:  you get a great meal, there’s football on tv, and if you’re a guy, somehow, you get out of cleaning up.  He does make a solid point.  As if I needed more convincing, he adds that during his bachelor days, there was an added advantage: you get all the leftovers!  He’s lucky he married someone who loves to cook, because now his leftovers are already in the fridge, with three exceptions: cornbread stuffing, wild rice stuffing and pumpkin mac and cheese.  There’s an old rule of cooking that states that in order to have leftovers, you must actually leave some over.  That just doesn’t happen, as we devour these three sides every year.  At least stuffing is good for you, right?

This year, though, would be different.  With his parents out of town, we decided on our first ever ‘restaurant Thanksgiving’.  I carefully picked a few restaurants to choose from, with a few guidelines in mind.  Since it’s an American Holiday, I avoided Italian and French, and steered towards chefs who cook American cuisine.  And since this is the one holiday where eating two desserts is seen as a badge of honor, I had to find a place that would offer more than just a slice of pumpkin pie.

I finally found a few places to choose from.  So he wouldn’t be biased, I covered the names of the restaurants, and just showed him the menu.  I was surprised as he immediately rejected half of the restaurants by uttering this question, “No mashed potatoes?”  There it is.  I never realized mashed potatoes were such a crucial component to the Thanksgiving meal.  As long as there’s cooked turkey, cranberry sauce and some kind stuffing and yams, isn’t the rest optional?  Apparently not.   What do you think?

Maybe I just watched the wrong American movies growing up, because I also, mistakenly thought that mac and cheese was a popular and traditional holiday menu item.  When I made it each year, people loved it, but, while checking a few menus, I saw that almost none of the restaurants offer mac and cheese.

So, after multiple mashed potato and dessert dilemmas, we ultimately decided on our tried and true favorite spot where the people are friendly, the cocktails are strong, and most importantly, the food is delicious.

(I’m secretly going to be mad if he doesn’t eat his mashed potatoes.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

October 22nd, 2011

Chicken Milanese

When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, my husband quickly replied, “Homemade Chicken Milanese with Mashed Potatoes.”

Not a bad choice.  In fact, I’m guessing his menu pick is a popular selection around the world, as it seems every culture has developed some version of fried, breaded meat.  Japan is no exception.  One of our classic dishes is called katsu (derived from the word ‘cutlet’), and inside the crisp breading, you’ll usually find pork.  Lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and breaded in panko before it’s deep fried, Katsu is my husband’s go-to meal when we are in Japan.  For him, this is one of very few Japanese dishes that he finds not only tasty, but satisfying.  It usually comes with side of sliced cabbage, rice and soup, and all these components are designed to compliment each other.  So imagine my father’s surprise when he first saw my husband eat katsu and skip the rice!  Unheard of!

Growing up with only pork katsu, chicken or beef versions of the dish are relatively new to me, but as they say, the more the  merrier!  With or without rice, I love them all.

So how did I make his birthday meal?  I brined the pounded chicken breasts in cold chicken stock with garlic, salt, black pepper and chili flakes for a couple of hours. Next, I dipped the chicken in egg and coated it with parsley and Panko (yes, I know it sounds exotic, but the trendy Panko is just the Japanese word for bread crumbs–sorry to burst your bubble) and fried it in canola oil.  Instead of rice and cabbage, my side dishes were mashed potatoes, boiled broccoli rabe, and arugula and tomato in lemon and olive oil dressing.  Normally, I would’ve put the arugula salad on top of the Chicken Milanese, but after pounding the chicken breast, it acquired the shape of a perfect heart that I didn’t want to hide with vegetables.
Why Chicken Milanese in the first place?  Was it a craving for fried food?  Maybe, but I’d like to think it has something to do with the fact that he ordered it on our very first date!  Happy Birthday indeed!