Cooking Theories

I'm a "scratch" cooker.  I was raised this way and have long shunned anything pre-packaged or boxed.  My kids used to laugh at me when they were smaller because they would say it took "soooo long" for me to make things.  I love the process of cooking, the preparation, setting the table, the mood, the music.......etc.  For me, it's an experience.
I learned how to make my recipes more time efficient as life went on and have a nice collection of favorites. 
When I was a little girl I spent time watching my mother cook from "scratch". When I would ask her for a recipe she would say, "I will have to make it and you can write down what I do." I didn't necessarily do this when I was little, but I certainly remember coming home and watching, taking mental notes and getting bits and pieces of her recipes. When I had a family of my own, I religiously called before Thanksgiving to get some very specific recipes. I live up north in Chicago but missed the Southern style cornbread dressing terribly! I made sure I asked good questions and wrote everything down. She was one of those "cooking by feeling" kind of people. As a result, I am one of the "cooking by feeling people."
I grew up just "getting" how to cook. One time my mother, sister and I went to San Antonio. It was right before I moved away to Los Angeles so we made sure we spent lots of time with each other. We had an exceptional meal prepared by a Master Chef at the hotel we were staying. It had shrimp, pasta and an amazing creamy, french sauce. I came home to my mother's house and tried to recreate the dish. I remember my mother saying, "it's not quite what we had in San Antonio." My reply was "he is a Master Chef!!" That gave me some insight into my mother's ability to reproduce pretty much what she wanted and also her faith in believing that I could do the same.
That one sentence didn't make me feel like I was not measuring up or that I was a failure. It did just the opposite. I thought that if she thinks I can do it, then I must be able to! Thank you, Mama!
Today's recipe isn't one of my mother's. It's just a good, basic recipe to have in your back pocket.

The Mash-up/Southern Style
Serves 2 - 3 people or one hungry teen
4 russet brown potatoes of average size cut into 4 - 5 pieces each (skin on)
8 oz. portobella baby mushrooms
4 oz. butter - real butter - no substitutions
1/8 cup milk or cream
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash potatoes thoroughly in cold water. You can use Yukon Gold, New Potatoes or Russet if you like. It all depends upon your personal preference. If you are using the smaller potatoes, double the amount of potatoes.
Cut and place in a quart of cold water on the stove top and turn up the heat. I leave the skin on - tastes better to me.
Bring to a rolling boil for 25 minutes
It's a "rolling boil" when you will see big bubbles like this on the top.

Here's how some people are able to cook by "feeling." When I say that I mean they don't necessarily measure and time everything. It's about being present, watching the process and not second-guessing yourself.
Here's a visual to use.....
When potato pieces start to float at the top, they are done. Stick a fork into a piece and if it goes in easily, it's time to take them off the heat.

Drain in a colander. When they look like they are a little parched, that's good. I leave them in the colander to drain off the excess water as opposed to putting them into a dish. Let them drain until you are ready to add the other ingredients. Watered down mashed potatoes are not good.

Peel 2 cloves of garlic and mince.
Slice of the very bottom of the mushrooms at the stem (just a sliver) so you have a completely fresh mushroom that will absorb the oil, salt and garlic. Slice the top of the mushroom into small pieces.

Take a saute' pan and heat the olive oil on high.
Throw in the garlic and let it brown a bit before turning the heat down to a medium flame.
When most of the garlic is brown, toss in the mushrooms and salt. The mushrooms will give off some water at first and then absorb it.
Let the mushrooms brown a bit before covering. If you have a hard time seeing this, it's when the edges of the mushrooms look a little darker. After you cover them, the water will come back - this is good.
I do this for a couple of reasons....number 1, they are tastier and number two, they have a little bit different texture - a little meatier. That blends well with the creamy mashed potatoes.

Add the butter, cream and some salt to taste to the potatoes. I use a handheld Braun multi quick blender to mix it all up.

I only have to use it for about 30 - 45 seconds and I have beautifully mashed potatoes. Be careful that you don't over mix. They will become gummy and starchy.
Scoop some potatoes onto a plate then top with the mushrooms. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Watch this page for new recipes complete with pix.  Give me a little time (ha! ) to get it together.

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