A Fireside Chat with Zola
We sat down recently to chat with Zola and learned all “merry” of things holiday related:
Do you go “all out” with your holiday decorating?
I used to. Now I do what I call “holiday lite.” That means I still decorate the mantel, one tall, thin tree, one buffet in the living room, the countertop in the TV room and the bar, as well as the dining room table. And believe me, for me, that’s lite!
Your Favorite Christmas Moment:
I love the morning of Christmas Eve. That’s when I get to just chill with a warm beverage and sit in front of my tree and just take it all in. I look at the gift wrapping I’ve done, admire the decorations on the tree and just soak up a warm fire. It’s my “me” time at Christmas.
What do you do for gift wrapping?
That’s one thing I still go all out on. Each year, my gifts have a theme color. This year is silver, black and white. I wrap all gifts so they match/coordinate and then I go nuts on the bows. My husband wraps my gifts and turns them over to me for the big bow job.
Your Favorite Christmas Food:
I still look forward to mashed potatoes. This is one of the few times a year I eat an adult-sized portion. So carb-laden! But now I don’t feel guilty when I make my recipe and load them with butter and cream. I hear sour cream is a great addition too. I might try that this year. And caramelized leeks! BIG YUM...
Carmelized Leek Mashed Potatoes
These have been the most popular mashed potatoes at my table. People don’t often remark about the mashed potatoes. They usually save the raves for dessert. This potato dish is a major hit.
Servings: Serves 6
For the Caramelized Leeks
4 leeks cleaned and sliced into quarter-inch slices
1 Tbl butter
1 Tbl olive oil
For the potatoes
Make your favorite mashed potatoes, or follow these directions:
4 russet potatoes peeled and cut into one-inch slices
One-third cup of milk or cream (even sour cream or buttermilk will do too)
Salt to taste
Melt butter and heat olive oil in a fry pan at the same time. Combining the butter and the olive oil keeps the butter flavor in and the “smoking or burning of butter” out. Put in the leeks. Cook leeks on medium until the leeks are just beginning to brown on the edges. Turning the heat up to high and back down to medium during the process (every few minutes) will bring out the natural sweetness in the leeks. Periodically stir them to keep them from sticking. Set aside. (These can be done up to a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.)
Cook the potatoes at a simmer until they are soft but not mushy. (Approx. 15 min.) Drain.
Time to combine!
Mash the potatoes with your choice of liquid and the salt (a ricer, your mixer, a masher; whatever you prefer). Halfway through the process, toss in the leeks. (Be sure they’ve been reheated if you chilled them.) No need for butter. There is enough oil and butter still clinging to the leeks. Mash to your liking. I like to leave them a bit lumpy. Russets make the best “lumpy” mashed potatoes. Sometimes we like them smooth and golden; in that case use Yukon Gold potatoes instead of russets. For a different look and taste, you can even do this recipe with red potatoes and just mash them with a fork and stir in the leeks.
If you need to reheat the potatoes before serving that’s fine. Just do it on low heat and expect some of the potato mixture to “stick” to the bottom of the pan as it heats. This is the starch sticking. Some say it actually makes the potatoes taste better to get more of the moisture out. To have less sticking, just make sure you stir them often and don’t leave them on the heat more than 5 minutes or so after you’ve gotten them warm.
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