From Angie’s Kitchen – Potato Croquettes

Welcome to our 7th edition of Angie’s Kitchen! For those of you that have been following along, you already know the deal. For those of you joining in for the first time, welcome! You can read more about what we do in Angie’s Kitchen here.

It was my turn to pick the recipe, so I reached for my grandma’s book to make my choice. Often I flip through the whole book and look at the recipes to decide which one we should make. This time, I just looked at the little table of contents that my grandma had conveniently included. The recipe for potato croquettes instantly caught my eye. There are very few savory recipes in the book, so we have been using them sparingly, but I decided it was time for one.

I did pause for a moment before making the final decision to go with it. What made me hesitate? My mind flashed back to our adventures with grandma’s rice croquettes. If you read that entry, you may recall the shock we both had during our individual attempts at making them. A seemingly very simple recipe resulted in both of our kitchens looking like some sort of cyclone or freight train had passed through them! Despite the memory of that day, I decided to go forward and hoped that the potato croquettes wouldn’t result in a similar disaster.

Surprises in Angie’s Kitchen can come in many forms. You might find ingredients without exact measurements or very vaguely written procedures that fail to include small details such as what temperature to use, or how long you should bake an item. This time around, I was surprised to find that none of the above was true. Most of the ingredients (cayenne being the one exception) had proper measurements and the procedure, although a bit short, was more than clear.

My one and only surprise this time came in the form of an ingredient. As I mentioned before, I chose the recipe from the table of contents where it was listed as “potato croquettes.” When I turned to the page with the recipe a few days later to see what ingredients were needed, I was surprised to see the slightly different title “nut and potato croquettes.” This certainly wasn’t a big deal or showstopper, I just found it to be an interesting, and perhaps a bit odd, ingredient for potato croquettes!

I went to work on making the recipe, and it was certainly easy enough to follow which was a nice change of pace. While the preparation did require several dishes and cooking utensils, when I was done, I was thankful that my kitchen did not look like the rice croquette disaster!

Potato croquettes

Overall, the flavor was pretty good, and they weren’t bad to eat, but during the taste test I quickly identified a few things that I would like to address in round 2. I felt that they could use a bit more salt than the recipe called for, and also, I found them to be a bit dry.

I will also stand by my first impression that the addition of pecans was an odd choice. They certainly didn’t result in an offensive taste or texture; it was quite the opposite. For us, they didn’t really result in any extra noticeable flavor at all! While I am not 100% certain of the direction I will go in round 2, I do know that I will be eliminating the pecans. I like pecans, but why waste them if you can’t taste them? On that note, I’ll turn this over to Karen to share her experience. Have a great weekend!

Angie’s original recipe

It’s funny, as I was cleaning up my kitchen, a thought occurred to me…. “I wonder if Ray’s kitchen looks as messy as the usual Angie’s Kitchen war zone?” Without any prompting from me, I see that he addressed the subject. My kitchen? It was absolutely destroyed, despite my efforts at mise en place (everything in place) beforehand. I always start with putting some thought into the process, and try to get organized, but I find that about halfway through, something happens and I’m in the weeds. It’s not that anything specific happens. I think it’s just me losing my composure and organization.

For this round, I agree that Angie did give a little more “intel”, but there was one part that made me stop and think. In the list of ingredients she includes the yolk of one egg. She also instructs us to roll the croquette in bread crumbs, dip them in an egg water mixture, then roll them in breadcrumbs once more. That made me wonder. The crumbs aren’t listed in the ingredients, so what about the egg? Was there only one egg yolk involved, or was there another covert egg in play? In the end, I decided there was indeed going to be a second egg in my interpretation as there probably should be some sort of binding ingredient in the croquette, and one egg yolk with a little water likely would not be enough to coat all the croquettes.

I was a little surprised to see the pecans in the croquettes, and did do a double check to ensure that I was on the correct page, but it sounds like I wasn’t as thrown off as Ray!

So, kitchen mess aside, how did the potato croquettes turn out? I would say they were rather successful! The only critique I had was the lack of salt, which squares precisely with Ray’s experience. I did kick myself a little for not tasting as I was preparing the croquettes, but it is a lesson for this recipe that I won’t forget in the future. As for the pecans? I quite liked them. I liked the added texture they provided. My husband Tom had no negative feedback concerning the pecans. My son Ryan? He didn’t notice them at all. He had no idea that there was any nut involved until I mentioned that Ray didn’t care for the pecans. My croquettes were not dry at all, which makes me wonder how Ray used the egg listed in the ingredients and if that made a difference.

The next round? I have all sorts of ideas floating around in my head, but have not settled on any one in particular. I just hope I manage to keep the kitchen fallout to a minimum.

Potato croquettes

One last note. I’m amused at how similarly we styled this dish. There was absolutely no consulting ahead of time, and yet me managed to produce eerily similar photos!

Tortellini Salad

Another Mother’s Day has come to pass – I hope it was a great one for everyone! Last year I wrote about the new Mother’s Day tradition in our home. For the first few years after my son was born, we would take my wife out to brunch for Mother’s Day. When the pandemic hit and everything was shut down, we worked to recreate the brunch in our own home. Even though things are open again, we grew to love the new tradition of brunch at home.

We let my wife sleep in and have the morning to herself while my son and I go to work preparing everything. We usually start the brunch between 10:30 and 11:00. For the first two years we really focused more on the “br” and less on the “unch” side of the event – with that being the first meal of the day, we all tend to go more for the breakfast foods first.

This year I decided I would make something that would also touch on the lunch side a bit and I put together the idea for the tortellini salad with orange vinaigrette dressing that I am sharing today. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Tortellini Salad

  • 1 12 ounce package of dried cheese or cheese and spinach tortellini
  • 1 stick of pepperoni, about 6 ounces, cut into quarter inch pieces
  • 1 8 ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 ounces pearl sized fresh mozzarella
  • 15 to 20 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Prepare the tortellini according to the directions on the package. Drain and return to the pan and toss them with the olive oil – this will keep the tortellini from sticking together. Chill the tortellini for at least 30 minutes.

Orange Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. You could also place all of the ingredients in a shaker bottle and shake vigorously to combine.

Pour the cooked tortellini onto a platter. Evenly distribute the pepperoni, roasted red peppers, mozzarella pearls and basil on top of the tortellini. You can drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and serve the rest on the side, but I prefer to leave the dressing off altogether and allow each person to pour as much or little as they like on their portion.

The layers of ingredients made a nice presentation on the platter and the combination of classic flavors came together to make a delicious salad.

As is our usual habit, I wasn’t surprised that we all went for the breakfast foods first during the brunch. Even though it wasn’t eaten that morning, the beauty of having a more lunch like item on the menu this year was that it translated into a nice dinner. We put a lot of time and effort into cooking the brunch early in the day and having a quick and ready to eat dinner that evening was a welcome addition.

Mother’s Day brunch year 3 was a success – my wife enjoyed the day and her brunch, and we loved making it for her. It’s a bit early to think about it, but I’m already wondering what changes we’ll make next year. We like to mix some new things in with some of the old favorites, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

Until next time, I hope you all have a great weekend.

Musings of a Bygone Era

Many, many years ago I was working night shift at the sleep lab with my late best friend Jan. I was feeling a bit hungry so I pulled out a can of Vienna sausages. I’m pretty sure she had convinced me that carbs were the devil and we should both be eating more protein, so this was my lame attempt at doing so. “You like those?” she asked. “Sure, I’ve eaten them since I was a kid. Don’t you like them?”I replied. “I’ve never been a fan of potted meat”, she said. Potted meat? Was that what I was eating? At that point I wasn’t sure, but I was sure of one thing. I suddenly felt self-conscious.

On another occasion, the subject of Vienna sausages came up, and I don’t recall the exact context, but I do remember the exact sentence uttered by my husband Tom. “You’re not feeding that to my kid.” Wow. That was harsh! Clearly, after those two comments I felt stung, and my consumption of Vienna sausages and the like was curtailed, but I’ve decided that years later, I will revisit some of these once popular pantry staples with my older more sophisticated palate to see how I feel about them now.

First up, Vienna sausages! These little guys have been around since the early 1900’s in the US, but evolved into the current iteration sometime in the 1950’s. Consumption peaked during my childhood. In my memory, I could conjure up exactly what these little guys tasted like, and after cracking open the can the look and smell of them was what I remembered. As for the taste? I felt like they weren’t unpleasant, but maybe not as good as I remembered in my youth. Tom still wasn’t tasting them at all, but my son Ryan is home from university, so since he was the object of the “You’re not feeding that to my son” sentence, and he is of legal age, I thought I would get his input. “I don’t know if I like it, or I hate it.” That is how Ryan chose to describe his reaction. He did clarify by saying that he felt neutral about the taste, but found the texture “extremely weird”.

Next up, Underwood Deviled Ham. I remember the commercials for this product on TV back in the 1970’s, but had no idea this product had been manufactured since 1868. I ate many a sandwich with this deviled ham in the 70’s and 80’s, but how would I feel about it now? It wasn’t my favorite, but it was edible. Tom quite liked it and Ryan agrees with him.

After the Underwood, we cracked open a can of corned beef. The familiar trapezoidal can was patented by Libby in 1875. Ah yes, the can that features a special little key. It had been decades since I had used a little key to open a can of food, and I did remember that if you mess this up and break the tab, you’re screwed. I experienced a mixture of fun and pressure using the old fashioned method and am proud to announce that I was successful in my endeavor. I recall ordering an omelet featuring canned corned beef at a local restaurant a few years back, and I remember thinking it wasn’t as good as I expected it to be. How would I feel about a sandwich of cold canned corned beef? Well, it was awful. How could I have eaten some of this stuff as a kid and been perfectly happy about it? Why didn’t I screw up opening the can? I would have been better off. Tom on the other hand, grew up around the corner from and worked as a teen in a deli. He hadn’t grown up eating canned corned beef. Ironically, he was not as adverse to the corned beef sandwich as I was. We spared Ryan this experience. See what great parents we are?

I also bought a can of Spam for this undertaking, but quite frankly, right now I can’t bring myself to crack open another can of meat. I’m spent! I have taken note that I have until January 2025 to collect some of my favorite Monty Python jokes and work up the courage to open and consume the Spam.

A Childhood Cooking Memory

When you think back to your childhood, what special memories come to mind? Do you remember good times playing with your friends or going to a great birthday party? Perhaps you remember many happy holidays shared with family or a special family trip that you went on.

For me it is certainly a mix of all of those things, but also of one other big thing – cooking. We started out learning how to make things when we were pretty young – many of those memories are tied to people as well since we often got together to cook. Two of my oldest cooking memories are without a doubt making sugar cookies with my mom and helping my grandma make her family famous bread.

I have so many memories that come from cooking inside the home, but my oldest and first memory of cooking outside of the home dates all the way back to when I went to kindergarten! My teacher, we called her Miss Gwen, brought in ingredients one day for a special project – biscuit pizzas. Just imagine how all of those little kindergarten ears perked up when they heard that – most kids love both of those things individually, but putting them together? To the mind of a kindergartener it was pure genius!

I remember running right home the day we made them to tell my mom all about them and to share the recipe with her. Miss Gwen no doubt chose such a simple recipe idea because she knew that young children would be able to remember it easily and would be excited to share it with their families. Of course I made my mom promise to buy the ingredients to make them at home the next time she went to the store.

So what are the ingredients for this magical simple recipe? Canned biscuit dough, a jar of pizza sauce (or you could season up some plain tomato sauce) and some shredded mozzarella. The process is simple too – hearing the ingredients, you may have already figured it out.

Simply take the biscuits and flatten each one out into a round disc shape like a pizza crust, top each one with a bit of sauce and cheese and bake according the the directions on the biscuit tube. When I was a kid they didn’t make the larger biscuits like Pillsbury Grands, but since they do today I like to use them and I split each biscuit in half to make two mini pizzas from one biscuit. Since I split them in half, I generally start with half the recommended cooking time and add a few minutes at a time as needed to prevent them from burning.

Building the mini pizzas – although it wasn’t part of the original recipe when I was in kindergarten, as an adult I like to go a little wild and sprinkle some oregano on the cheese!

They are very easy to make and come together quickly and are still as tasty and enjoyable to me today as they were back then. It was also fun to share a recipe from my childhood with my own 6 year old!

Biscuit pizzas fresh and hot from the oven

If by some chance you stumble onto this blog entry one day, Miss Gwen of the one time Highland Park Lafayette Grammar School, now just the exterior shell of a school with the interior having been turned into condos, I hope it makes you smile to know that such a simple project left such a lasting impression.

As I recall, that year you were starting out as a teacher when I was starting out as a student. I hope the students in your inaugural class helped you get off to a good start as a teacher just as you helped us start out our school years in a kind, fun and happy environment.

I hope this post helped spark a happy memory or two from your own childhood! Until next time, have a great weekend!