Almost an all-potato buffet Essay

One potato, two potato, three potato, four–guests at this party mayfind themselves eating that many baked potatoes just to try all thetempting toppings you’ve set out. Inspired by the potato bars in some Western restaurants, thisinexpensive buffet serves a dozen. Guests return to the table as oftenthey like, sampling their way through topping choices that range fromold favorites to some new flavor surprises.

All the Potato accompaniments can be prepared or assembled well inadvance. And you can keep the potatoes hot for several hours afterthey’re baked. With this meal, you might serve a dry white wine, a wine cooler,apple or other fruit juice, beer, or mineral water. For dessert, offer ice cream sandwiches and fresh fruit. Look for dried cepes (also called porcini) and chanterelle mushrooms in the gourmet section of your supermarket. Oriental marketscarry fermented black beans.

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A potato buffet Red, White, and Brown Baked Potatoes Hot andCrisp Sausage Golden Onions Zucchini Provencal A Trio of SauteedMushrooms Black Beans with Blue Cheese Tricolor Caviars Sour Cream FreshChives Thousand Island Dressing Sesame-Yogurt Topping Shredded Jack andCheddar Cheeses Butter Lettuce Salad Ice Cream Sandwiches Pears andApples Wine Fruit Juices Mineral Water Prepare the toppings a day or two ahead; refrigerate. Beforeserving, reheat sausage, onions, zucchini, and mushrooms and keep themhot at the table. Allow 2 to 3 cups each of sour cream and Thousand Island dressing(purchased or homemade) and 1/2 pound each shredded jack and cheddarcheese. Stand a handful of fresh chive spears upright in a narrow-mouthedcontainer; place scissors alongside for snipping. Red, White, and BrownBaked Potatoes Scrub 3 to 4 pounds each (at least 9 lb. total) small, thin-skinnedred potatoes, white potatoes, and russet potatoes, each 2-1/2 to3-1/2-inch size. Wipe potatoes dry, then rub the skin with soft butter,margarine, or solid vegetable shortening (in all, you’ll need about1/3 cup).

Pierce each potato in several places with a fork to let steamescape during baking. Arrange potatoes in 2 or 3 rimmed 10-by 15-inch baking pans; keeplarger potatoes together in one pan. Bake potatoes in a 400[deg.] oven until they give readily to gentlepressure. Put larger potatoes in first to bake about 1 hour; after 15minutes, add smaller potatoes. Serve, or keep hot up to 2 hours in a turned-off (but still warm)oven or in an insulated picnic chest. Pile hot potatoes in a basket or on a platter, accompanied bytongs, to serve.

Allow 3/4 pound potatoes for a serving. Hot and CrispSausage Remove casings from 1-1/2 pounds each (3 lb. total) hot and mildItalian sausage; coarsely chop sausage. Place in a 12- to 14-inchfrying pan. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat, stirringfrequently, until brown and crisp, about 40 minutes; discard fat. Seasonwith salt and pepper. If made ahead, cover sausage and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Reheatin frying pan, stirring occasionally. spoon hot sausage into a bowl, the keep hot on a warming tray.Makes about 4 cups; allow 1/3 cup for a serving. Golden Onions Peel and thinly slice 7 large onions (about 3 lb.).

In a 12- to14-inch frying pan over medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons butter ormargarine. Add the onions, cover, and cook until limp, about 15minutes, stirring often. Remove cover and continue cooking, stirringoften, until onions are very limp and pale gold, about 35 minuteslonger. Season with salt and pepper. If made ahead, cover, and chill up to 2 days. Reheat in frying panover low heat, stirring occasionally.

spoon hot onions into a bowl, then keep hot on a warming tray.Makes about 3 cups; allow 1/4 cup for a serving. Zucchini Provencal Cut off and discard ends from 2 pounds (about 6 medium-size)zucchini, then cut zucchini into 1/8-inch-thick slices. In a 12- to14-inch frying pan over medium heat, cook the zucchini in 2 tablespoonsolive oil or salad oil, stirring constantly, until lightly browned,about 15 minutes. Stir in I can (about 1 lb.

) stewed tomatoes and 1/2teaspoon each dry basic and dry oregano leaves. Boil, uncovered, untilliquid evaporates, about 15 minutes, stirring gently. If made ahead, let cool, cover, and chill up to 2 days. Reheat infrying pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Pour hot zucchini into a bowl, then keep hot on a warming tray.Makes about 4 cups; allow 1/3 cup for a serving. A Trio of SauteedMushrooms Immerse 1 ounce each dried cepes (also called porcini) and driedchanterelle mushrooms (or 2 oz. total of either mushroom) in hottest tapwater and let stand 10 minutes; drain.

Rinse several times with coolwater; drain. Set aside. In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter ormargarine. Add 1-1/2 pounds fresh regular mushrooms, sliced. Cookuncovered, stirring often, until mushroom liquid evaporates, about 15minutes.

Add 2 more tablespoons Butter

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