Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Little Something on the Side: Spicy Corn Salad and Bacon and Egg Potato Salad

It's no secret that I love a good barbeque. I love the way the hickory smoke permeates my hair and clothing and makes my eyes water. I love the way it gives you an excuse to do nothing but cook, no store runs, no picking up kids, no housework. I have to stay close to the grill just in case there should be a sudden flame up, so Dad's in charge of the grunt work on these days. Yep, it's just me and a glass of wine, alone with my thoughts and some smoldering meat.

Then at the end of a "hard" day slaving over a pile of hot coals, there’s nothing more rewarding than slicing open a well-tended brisket and seeing that much sought after beautiful pink smoke ring beneath a nice crispy bark-like coating.

I learned my respect of barbeque from the grand master himself, my dad. I have very fond memories of his routine; carefully stacking the charcoal briquets then dousing them down with just the right amount of lighter fluid before throwing a match on them. I wish he was here today so I could turn him on to the ease of a chimney starter (no more lighter fluid taste Dad!). If you haven't discovered these yet you are really missing out on a great little tool to start your charcoal fire.

Dad would then soak a couple of big handfuls of mesquite or hickory chips for 30 minutes (no more or less) in lukewarm water. I recently read that soaking the chips is unnecessary, but I still do it in honor of him. Then after what seemed like an eternity, he would announce that the coals were just right and the real fun would begin.

On the other hand there is one thing that I don't often enjoy about barbeque, the side dishes that are usually served with it. The run of the mill baked beans and coleslaw just don’t really do much for me.

I have managed over the years to run across some pretty good side dish recipes and I've even managed to develop one or two. Since we are still in the middle of barbeque season, I thought I'd share a few of my favorites with you and maybe help you to perk up your next cookout.

My first recipe is for a delicious corn salad that I discovered at a small family wedding several years ago. It is easy to make and a real crowd pleaser I promise. I mean how can you go wrong with Chili Cheese Fritos and mayo?

The next recipe is for an easy potato salad which strips things down to basics. It wins over even the toughest potato salad critics with its simple uncomplicated flavors. Put the pickles and yellow mustard away, they're no longer needed and won't be missed.

My super easy version of Swedish Hasselback potatoes are really no more than a simple twist on the regular old baked potato. Here at high altitude where it takes a day and a half to bake a potato the conventional way, this method will help to speed things up so you can eat before midnight. This recipe proves that it is the little things that make something special out of something ordinary.

Spicy Corn Salad

You can make this salad with fresh blanched corn, canned or frozen. It can be white corn, yellow corn or bi-colored, just so long as it's sweet. This is really one of those "dash of this and a pinch of that" recipes that you really make your own. This is just a general guideline.

1 - 14 ounce can sweet corn, drained
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 medium size red bell pepper, diced
1 medium size Serrano, finely diced
1 tablespoon, coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 - 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 heaping tablespoon bacon bits (optional)
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup chili cheese flavored Fritos

Place all ingredients except for the Fritos in a medium size bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving stir in the Fritos.

Serves 4

Bacon and Egg Potato Salad

4 large eggs
2 pounds (about 5 medium size) potatoes
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
5 slices bacon (4 is probably enough, but this gives you a slice to eat)
1/2 sweet yellow onion
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish (optional)

Place the eggs in a small saucepan. Pour in enough water to completely cover eggs. Place them over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Let eggs boil for 5 minutes before covering the pan with a tight fitting lid and removing from them from the heat. Allow eggs to sit in the hot water for approximately 30 minutes. Peel and chop into large pieces; set aside.

Peel potatoes and cut into large cubes. Place potatoes into a large saucepan and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the water. Bring potatoes to a boil and cook until they are fork tender; drain, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Place bacon in a medium size frying pan over medium high heat. Cook until crispy before transferring to a plate to cool. After it is cool to the touch, chip into small pieces; set aside.

In the hot bacon grease, add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until they are soft and slightly transparent. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently for one minute longer. Transfer onions and garlic to the bowl with the potatoes being sure to transfer some of the bacon drippings as well (about 2 teaspoons).

In a medium size bowl, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard; stir well. Pour over the cooled potato mixture, add the bacon and toss all together well to combine. Don’t be afraid of breaking the potatoes while stirring as this will make a creamy base. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Just before serving, sprinkle with paprika.

Makes approximately 6 servings

No Hassle Hasselback Potatoes

If you want make these the conventional way, you'll need to peel them and bake the heck out of them in your oven. Personally I like this recipe just as much and I don't have to take my eye of the barbeque for very long to make them.

4 medium size russet potatoes, well washed and scrubbed
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/8 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

I've seen all sorts of instructions for cutting these potatoes, but my favorite method is taping two chopsticks to the countertop about 1-1/2" apart. Place the potatoes between them, then with a very sharp knife, slice the potatoes across in 1/8 - 1/4" increments. The chopsticks should stop the knife from slicing all the way through the potato.

Place the prepared potatoes in a glass baking dish. Cover with microwave safe plastic wrap and microwave on high for 6 minutes. Carefully remove the cover and pierce with a fork to test doneness. If the potatoes are easily pearced, then they are done. If not, replace the cover and continue to microwave in 1 - 2 minute increments until they are done. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of your potatoes and the power of your microwave.

Drizzle the oil over the top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with the seasonings. Place uncovered in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the potato tops are brown and crispy.

If desired, top with a mixture of 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan and 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs before placing in the oven. Serve plain or with sour cream, chives, grated cheese, kosher salt or butter.

Serves 4

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