by Kate Heyhoe
The secret really is in the sauce, especially when these quick, savory-sweet sauces come to the table.
Spring entertaining often means holiday roasts, buffets, and special desserts. If you want to put a modern spin on your traditional menu, without spending a lot of time or money, I've got some sweet ideas...sauces that are a bit sweet and a touch savory. Some are good over desserts (homemade or not), others work well drizzled over, napped around, and tucked under ham, roasted meats, roasted root vegetables, and platters of assorted cheeses and fruits. (Try them on our Easter and Passover recipes, as well as your family favorites).
Like many folks, I'm too busy to bake, and when it comes to pastry, I'm all thumbs. But I recently discovered even I could churn out a fabulous dessert, just by making a sauce. A no-holds-barred, down and dirty, decadent and delightful sauce to pour over everything from strawberry ice cream to Sarah Lee Streudel. Or lick up shamelessly, straight from the bowl.
I also started turning sweet sauces into savory ones that taste remarkably good with simple sautéed chicken or pork. Or paired with roasted vegetables, or robust goat cheeses. In fact, they can add an upscale gourmet quality to everyday recipes in minutes.
What can you do with a savory-sweet sauce?...
When cold weather hits or I crave cozy comfort food, I whip up a pot of potato soup. Nothing could be simpler than potato soup, and you don't really need a recipe. But I've listed my own Basic Potato Soup recipe below as a guide to improvising your own. All of the measurements are general and can be tweaked, and the soup's personality lies in the variations you create.
Sometimes I make the soup in hot weather, too, and it becomes Vichyssoise (French cold potato soup), or simply when I notice a 5-pound bag of potatoes heading south, and needing to be cooked soon or tossed later.
Essentially, all you need to do is sauté diced leek or onion (and sometimes celery) in a fat (butter, olive oil, or bacon grease, for instance). Add diced potatoes and simmer until tender in liquid to cover (chicken or vegetable broth; or milk, for chowder, or a mixture; or plain water). Be sure the liquid has plenty of salt; potatoes taste bland without it. Then blend the soup until pureed, leaving some chunks if you like; use a handblender or potato masher to break up the potatoes in the same pot, if you prefer not to decant the hot liquid.
Russet potatoes (baking potatoes) make great pureed soup, and so do Yukon Golds. Red-skinned and white-skinned potatoes are waxier, and good for chowders as they hold their shape better.
Basic Potato Soup (below) is like a blank canvas. Get creative and flavor it as you like, such as with garlic, sausage, ham, bacon, steak, clams, herbs, cheese and vegetables. Paprika and pepper kick up the profile, cream adds richness and body, and dollops of sour cream or yogurt add tang.
Want more tips on potatoes? Check out these links for lots of handy advice.
I add a splash of dry sherry or white balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking, to give the soup some high notes and brighten the flavors, but you can skip this step if you like. You can also simmer the soup with bay leaves or thyme, or top with a touch of nutmeg, or chopped green onions or celery leaves, at serving. Use waxy potatoes for a chunky soup or chowder.
Melt the butter or other fat in a deep pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, broth, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes). For a smooth soup, puree with an immersion blender or let the soup cool and blend in a blender (be careful not to burn yourself). For a chunky soup, skip the pureeing and serve as is. Add pepper to taste.
Perfect for Oscar parties: Chinese Chicken Salad
Also, get a jump on Passover (March 30, 2010) and Easter (April 4, 2010) with our Easter and Passover featured recipes.
Copyright © 2010, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified March 2010
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