Comfort Food…Plus Truffle Oil

This week, Katie was recovering from dental surgery, and we struggled to come up with dinner options that were feasible for her to actually eat without pain. After some bugging on my part, she decided that all she really wanted was something comforting—like mashed potatoes, with eight tons of butter. Creamy, rich, velvety mashed potatoes in a big bowl, and that’s it. Now, I’ve made mashed potatoes at least a hundred times before, but being the spazzy foodie that I am, I couldn’t let dinner be that simple. This Christmas, some of my most prized gift items included cooking sauces, vinegars and a little jar of truffle oil—which I spent more time oo-ing and aah-ing over than my new digital camera. It smells like a little slice of heaven. I actually gifted a jar of truffled sea salt to my mother, but insisted upon tasting it (two or three times) after it was unwrapped. I had to be sure that it wasn’t poison, and I think that makes me very considerate.

I knew that my truffle oil was desperate to make its kitchen debut. I could feel its silent presence as it innocently sat behind the red wine vinegar and Marsala cooking wine, pretending it wasn’t the oil of my dreams. I settled on truffled mashed potatoes with sharp cheddar cheese and sour cream, and for the protein portion I chose to take a bit of a risk with a pound of ground beef. In an effort to use as many Christmas-present pantry items as possible, I chose to season the beef into oblivion, and then do a “mock-braising” in assorted sauces on the stove top. Since I knew that I wouldn’t have time to legitimately braise the stuff in the oven for hours like a normal cook would do, I concocted my own method to the madness. Somehow…it worked out. The great thing about having a blog is that nobody has to read about the times that I fail so badly that I can’t even look at myself, or my stove. My stove always forgives me eventually.

“Mock-Braised” Ground Beef with Carrots & Onions, and Truffled Cheddar Mashed Potatoes:

About 3 servings

Beef Ingredients:

-1 lb lean ground beef

– ½ large yellow onion, chopped finely

-2 tablespoons minced garlic

-Approximately 1 cup chopped carrots

-Worcestershire sauce

-2 squeezes honey

-Red wine vinegar

-1 tablespoon lemon juice

-Balsamic vinegar

-Soy sauce

-Seasoning: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dash of cumin, honey granules (if available), dried parsley, pinot noir sea salt (obscure Christmas present alert, this is optional if unavailable).

Truffled Mashed Potato ingredients:

-3 Idaho potatoes

-Several tablespoons butter, to taste

-Milk, to taste

-Salt, to taste

-Approximately 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

-2 cap-fulls truffle oil (see picture for size)

-2 or 3 tablespoons sour cream

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To Cook:

Peel your potatoes and cut each into 4 pieces. Bring a large pot to a boil and drop in your potatoes to cook. Sprinkle the seasonings generously over the ground beef and mix together with your hands. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil until it sizzles when it’s flicked with water, and then drop in your garlic and onions. Cook them for a couple minutes until they become aromatic and caramelized, and then drop in your ground beef and chopped carrots. Saute everything together, mixing frequently with a spatula until the beef is mostly browned but still has some pink left. Then add a few splashed of Worcestershire, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, honey and one splash of the soy sauce. Mix everything together and then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Let this simmer (mock-braise) for at least 10 minutes, checking it occasionally to make sure that it’s not bubbling too high. Stir and taste as you go, and as soon as the carrots are cooked and the sauce begins to thicken and has a sweet-and-savory flavor, you are good to go.

Once your potatoes are cooked, drain the water and smash them with a potato masher or fork until they are smooth. Add the butter, milk, salt, cheddar cheese, sour cream and truffle oil and mix well. I purposely didn’t include exact measurements for this because, in addition to me being mildly allergic to rules, everybody prefers their mashed potatoes a little different. It’s kind of like the way you take your coffee…there is no right or wrong, unless you drink espresso without sugar, or fail to include any butter in your potatoes. Then there is a problem. In this situation, though, it’s just a matter of adding a little at a time until they taste creamy, smooth and hearty. Truffle oil has a particularly strong flavor and aroma, so I recommend adding one cap-full to start and then gauging the result. If it isn’t strong enough, add another (I did).

The beef can be served on top of the mashed potatoes in a shepherd’s pie fashion, or alongside it. Doing the latter allows the fantastic juices from the beef to creep across the plate and seep slowly into the potatoes for an end-of-the-meal tangy surprise.

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Katie was thrilled at her ability to consume the entire presentation without difficulty, and I was so thrilled by the truffled potatoes that I could hardly contain myself. It really, really doesn’t take much to make my evening.

Happy comfort eating 🙂

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