Anything-but-basic meat and potatoes

Meat and potatoes. The phrase has grown to mean more than just a protein and a starch. It’s become a descriptor, shorthand to describe an unadventurous—possibly even boring—eater. Every so often, you’ll hear a chef or manager describe their customers this way: “Well, I would love to put something different on the menu, but our customers…they’re very meat and potatoes.”

Well, meat-and-potato dishes like chorizo empanadas, Cornish pasties, Southwestern shepherd’s pies and Indian samosas just might be the way to change all that. Flavor profiles from around the globe and portable presentations take meat and potatoes (and your “meat and potatoes” customers) on a flavor adventure.

Miner Food and the Latin American Hot Pocket

Let’s begin underground to find the origins of portable meat and potatoes. The tin miners of Cornwall are said to be the originators of the Cornish pasty, a sturdy pastry shell surrounding meat, root vegetables, gravy and diced potatoes. The pasty was a portable lunch, taken into the dark depths of the mine. Pasties stay warm for hours, can be eaten without cutlery and—legend has it—are tough enough to survive a fall down a mineshaft.

Kerala shepherd’s pie, named for a state in India, features warm spices like cinnamon and cardamom mixed with lamb. The potatoes are spiked with shallots, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Photo: True Aussie Beef and Lamb

Let’s begin underground to find the origins of portable meat and potatoes. The tin miners of Cornwall are said to be the originators of the Cornish pasty, a sturdy pastry shell surrounding meat, root vegetables, gravy and diced potatoes. The pasty was a portable lunch, taken into the dark depths of the mine. Pasties stay warm for hours, can be eaten without cutlery and—legend has it—are tough enough to survive a fall down a mineshaft.

From those mines, the Cornish pasty traveled to miners’ lunchboxes across the ocean to the mining towns of the new country.

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Cornish pasty is a local favorite, something the chefs at Michigan State University (MSU) are very familiar with. This portable meat pie is a jumping-off point for Jason Strotheide, executive chef, MSU Culinary Services, East Neighborhood, who finds meat-and-potatoes inspiration everywhere.

“One of my favorite things about food is that across the globe there are different cultural versions of the same foods represented in countless ways,” Strotheide says. “It’s all about the methods of preparations and, more importantly, what ingredients the locals have to work with.”

CURRY UP: Indian spices are a quick route to an out-of-the-ordinary beef stew with potatoes. Photo: Idaho Potato Commission

In a college dining environment, the idea of a portable feast that works for every daypart and even catering, is especially appealing, and Strotheide draws on the “endless varieties of the prestuffed, folded sandwich,” he says.

“In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it’s Cornish pasties. But how about a curried lamb samosa from India?” Strotheide muses. “Both of those are great, but my favorite is the empanada: The Latin American version of the beloved Hot Pocket.”

Empanadas in the MSU kitchen begin with masa harina (translated to “dough flour,” it’s a traditional Mexican flour made with corn). Strotheide likes to blend masa harina with white flour, a combination that yields a tender dough with a light corn flavor and a crisp snap when fried.

For the filling, he browns crumbly chorizo sausage with onion, garlic and diced potatoes (skin on), along with some spicy chilies. Strotheide tastes the filling, and if chorizo lacks oompf, he adds some chili powder and cumin. The filling is then cooled, queso fresco or queso Chihuahua cheese is added along with cilantro. From there, the empanadas are formed: dough circles, filling added and edges crimped with a fork. These can be baked, but, “let’s be honest, we all know they taste better out of the fryer,” Strotheide says.

TWO NEW WAYS WITH POUTINE: Poutine is a meat-and-potatoes dish that’s overdue for adaptation. In this version (at left), Bombay chili cheese fries by Mehawan Irani of Chai Pani in Decatur, Ga., fries are topped with kheema, a mixture of lamb or turkey seasoned with chili powder, garam masala, serrano peppers, ginger, cumin, turmeric and coriander that’s been simmered with yogurt and crushed tomatoes. Shredded mozzarella or havarti cheese provides the cheesy finishing touch. Classic poutine features squeaky cheese curds and gravy made with veal stock. Photos: Idaho Potato Commission

“Once they’re finished cooking,” he cautions, “no matter what your mind tells you, do not take that first bite for a couple minutes, unless you like searing pain on the roof of your mouth! Then, go ahead and take your best shot.” He also recommends “minimizing the damage” by offering some cool guacamole or crema on the side.

Living dangerously aside, empanadas like these present a great opportunity to use the last of late summer’s bounty. Sweet corn, peppers and zucchini all go great with chorizo.

Source: http://food-management.com/food-beverage/anything-basic-meat-and-potatoes

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