Urgh Travel Dinner

Menu: Smoked salmon and poached egg on potato pancake; Roasted beet and sour cream salad.
Total time is about 2 hours, 30-40 minutes active.
Everything here can easily be served cold (okay, not actually sure about the poached eggs, but the dish is still yummy without them) and scaled up for a crowd, if that’s your thing.


Yes, yes it has taken me ages to post this. But! better late than never, and I promise to do better in the future, yo. This is a story of dinner when ZiZ and I had just gotten back from visiting the godkids—tired, sick, and with a more-or-less empty pantry. There were a few beets I hadn’t gotten around to cooking yet that were still good, a little Greek yogurt, and some mandarin oranges that weren’t quite all the way funny yet in the house. First order of business was a trip to Costco for milk and sustenance, obviously, where I found these REALLY YUMMY looking tomatoes. I will buy these! But lo, how will I cook the tomatoes? It used to be that pasta of some form was the go-to tomato user, but since I’m trying to avoid wheat, what with it making me feel crummy, pasta’s just not the awesome food it used to be. Bread’s out too, since it’s too late in the day to try and make some. Hrm… ah-ha! They sell potatoes here! I could make gnocchi with all potato! But oh, the sadness, I am sick and that is much work. I will still buy the potatoes! And ooh, smoked salmon! And thus, a dinner plan is born: Smoked salmon on potato pancake and beet and sour cream salad. And since the oven will be on, I can roast garlic for that gnocchi I’ve promised myself later.

Supplies

(Serves 4)

For the beet salad

  • 4 beets
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sour cream
  • Orange zest
  • Lemon juice (½ lemon)

For the salmon on pancakes

  • About 1.5 lbs potatoes, any kind is fine
  • Butter
  • Greek yogurt
  • Lemon juice (½ lemon)
  • Salt
  • Fresh dill (4-5 sprigs)
  • Tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • White vinegar
  • 2 eggs per serving (8 total) plus 2 eggs if you are using non-starchy potatoes
  • Smoked salmon (2 slices per serving)

Also awesome to have

  • Several heads of garlic, for roasting
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil

Equipment

  • Oven
  • Mixing bowls (at least one, two is more convenient)
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Tinfoil
  • Grater (cheese/vegetable, with large holes)
  • Sharp knife & cutting board
  • Large nonstick skillet/frying pan
  • Wide pan at least 2 inches deep
  • A small bowl (e.g. a cereal bowl)

Optional but helpful

  • A flat plate or pot lid

Process

  1. Turn the oven on to 400°F
  2. While the oven heats up, prep beets and garlic for roasting. First, cut the top and root off each beet and the tops off the heads of garlic. Peel any paper that is loose enough to come off from the garlic.
  3. Place beets on sheets of tinfoil (2 beets to a sheet) and drizzle with vegetable oil. Sprinkle generously with salt (I prefer Kosher salt). Fold tinfoil over to completely seal. Repeat with all the beets and garlic.
  4. Place sealed tinfoil packets in the oven and set a timer for 40 minutes (or check the clock).
  5. Mix Greek yogurt (about 1½ cups, but no need for precision) with the juice of half a lemon and a generous pinch of salt. Chop or snip in a couple sprigs of dill (to taste) and give it a good stir. Set aside for flavors to mingle.
  6. Peel your potatoes, if desired (I generally peel russets but not red potatoes) and remove any bad spots (I like to do this with a peeler even if I’m not peeling the potatoes). Grate the potatoes using the large holes on your box grater (or, if you have an automatic grater, use the large insert).
  7. Squeeze potatoes, a handful at a time, over the sink to remove excess liquid. As hard as you can squeeze with your bare hands is plenty, no need to do anything fancy. Salt these fairly generously. If you are using a starchy potato (e.g. russet) set aside. If you are using a waxy potato like red potatoes, add a couple eggs and mix in to the potatoes to help the pancake hold together better later.
  8. Thinly slice your tomato and red onion, set aside.
  9. Have a nice glass of wine while you wait for the timer to go off (or clean your grater, knife, and cutting board).
  10. At 40 minutes, I find that the garlic is generally done, but the beets are better with about 15 minutes longer. So remove the garlic but, if you have time, set the timer for 15 minutes more and leave the beets in the oven. Fully roasted beets will be soft enough that you can easily slide a sharp knife into the center.
  11. When the beets are done, open the tinfoil packets (careful of steam) and run cold water over them until they are cool enough to handle. Peel the beets (you can, in theory, do this with just your hands, but I always find it much easier to just use a knife or peeler). Coarsely chop the beets into about half-inch chunks.
  12. Everything can sit out at this point for at least an hour or so; there’s about 15 minutes remaining from here before dinner is served, so don’t proceed until you’re just about ready to eat!
  13. Fill your deep pan with about 1½ inches of water and set over high heat to come to a rolling boil.
  14. Melt a large pat (about 1½ Tbsp) of butter in your nonstick skillet over high heat.
  15. When the butter is melted, add about half the potatoes and stir to coat with butter. You may find you want to add a little more butter to properly coat all the potatoes. Once they are coated, spread the potatoes out in the pan to form a solid layer and turn the heat down slightly. Let sit until potatoes are fairly dark brown on the bottom, around 2-3 minutes.
  16. To flip the potatoes, do that awesome omelet flip thing that everyone can do no problem, right? Or, if you’re like me and can’t do that, take a large flat plate or pot lid and hold it near the skillet. Pick up the skillet and slide the potatoes, flat, onto the lid (so the uncooked side is still up). Now hold the skillet upside-down (cooking side towards the potatoes!) against the lid and turn the whole thing over quickly. Voila! Turned potatoes! Cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side, until dark brown on this side.
  17. Around now, your water should be boiling. Add a generous splash of white vinegar (think ¼ cup) and adjust the heat so you have a gentle boil.
  18. One at a time, crack an egg into a small bowl. Then, use the bowl to slide the egg quickly into the gently boiling water. Depending on the size of your pan, you can fit anywhere from 1 to 4 eggs in at a time. Just make sure there is plenty of room between them so they don’t get stuck together. Poach the eggs in the water until the whites are cooked but the yolk is still liquid. This takes somewhere between 2 and 5 minutes, depending on exactly how hot the water is and possibly the phase of the moon. You can check the eggs by picking them up in a slotted spoon and jiggling it to see if the white in the center of the egg is still moving. When it doesn’t jiggle, take out the egg.
  19. Cook the second half of the potatoes the same way as the first. You can keep the first pancake warm in the still-warm oven (which you turned off, right?) while all this is going on.
  20. Assemble the potato pancakes by putting 2 quarter pancakes on a plate. Smear generously with the Greek yogurt mixture, add a slice of smoked salmon, tomato, and red onion, and top with a poached egg. Garnish with a sprig of dill.
  21. To assemble the beet salad, put a pile of sour cream in the middle of a plate. Surround with the chopped beets and zest an orange over the plate. Sprinkle the beets with lemon juice and serve.
  22. Eat and enjoy!

The Carnage

Not a huge number of dishes to do, especially since there’s a break in the middle of the cooking here where you can get some kitchen cleaning done. Overall, you need to wash the knife, board, vegetable peeler, grater, and a couple of pots. I unwisely waited to wash my poaching pot, so it took some serious scrubbing, but even so dishes took a total of about 25-30 minutes for this meal.

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