Side Dishes


Variety is good. No one wants to just eat only a pot roast and nothing else for a meal. You want something on the side to distract you and amuse you in between giant bites of whatever it is that is the centerpiece. This Food in Mind entry is dedicated to these side dishes. There are four in all. Feel free to try one, four, or none at all.

Tier One: Yogurt

White like snow that hasn't been peed on. Except for that one spot that's slightly yellowish in hue. It's not what you think.

Didn’t see this one coming, did ya? I mean, you can buy yogurt from the store and all. And to even [i]make[/i] yogurt, you need to buy a small container of yogurt from the store as a starter. Well, this entry is really for either those who wish to consume yogurt and save a dollar or two, or those who enjoy trying to make everything with their own bare hands.

Ingredients:
Milk (anything from skim to whole is fine)
Small can of yogurt
Stove
Pot

First of all, you will need a small container of yogurt from the store. Feel free to buy the smallest container you can find. Plain yogurt is recommended so that you end up with a pot of neutral yogurt with which to customize to your heart’s content. The most important thing to look for is that the yogurt contains [i]Live and Active Cultures[/i]:

Live cultures

The logo we have stateside.

This means that there are active yogurt bacteria inside that will help you kick-start your own yogurt. So here’s what you do: First, pour however much milk into a pot as the amount of yogurt you wish to make. I used half a gallon of skim milk. Heat the milk up on the stove, and bring the milk to almost a boil. Try to stir every now and then to prevent a layer of burnt milk from building on the bottom of the pot. If you have a thermometer, the key temperature is 185F, or 85C. The milk must reach at least this temperature to prepare the milk proteins for transformation into yogurt.

Once milk has reached this temperature, remove from heat. You should wait for the milk to cool to roughly 110F or 43.3C. Pour your container of yogurt into the pot of milk and stir. Store this concoction in a relatively warm place. This may be difficult to do in the winter months. What I usually do is strategically time yogurt-making to coincide with when I bake or roast, and let the pot sit on top of the warm oven. A half-gallon of milk will need at least 8-10 hours to turn into yogurt. You do not need the temperature to stay exactly at 110F, but significantly cooler temperatures such as room temperature will severely hamper your yogurt culture.

The only proof I have that this is yogurt instead of milk is that the pear slices rest on top of the yogurt. Either that or they're Jesus pears.

After 8-10 hours have passed, you should be able to see results. A successful yogurt attempt will show a glossy surface within the pot, almost like tofu. Refrigerate the yogurt and enjoy as you please.

Tier Two: Tuna Salad

Looks like something fishy is going on.

Ingredients:

2 cans tuna, drained
diced celery, roughly 1/3 inch pieces
carrots, cut into strips of similar diameter to celery, then sliced thinly
fresh parsley
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt
pepper

Combine all ingredients. Chill for an hour before serving. Tuna salad makes a great sandwich filling between two slices of toasted bread. The lemon juice might be a bit tart for some, but is essential if you plan to make sandwiches. It allows the flavors of the salad to pierce through the dry bread.

Tier Three: Mashed Potatoes

The gravy train derailed so we're gonna have to go solo.

Familiar territory for a lot of people probably. This is just my own preferences, feel free to share your own take in the comments 🙂

Ingredients:

Potatoes (Russet, the cheapest variety, is perfect for this type of dish)
butter
salt
pepper
dried parsley
garlic powder
milk/cream

Fill a pot with enough water to submerge your potatoes. Add a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and cut potatoes. If you are using relatively new potatoes with fresh skin, you can opt to keep the skin on one or two of the potatoes. The skin will provide a nice rustic texture to your mash. My personal preference is to cut the potatoes into 2/3 inch blocks or so.

Dump cut potatoes into boiling water. Cooking time depends on the size of your pieces, but mine are cooked thoroughly in about 15 minutes. You will want to cook your potatoes thoroughly, since nothing is worse than undercooked chunks in your mash. Drain the potatoes. Add all of the seasonings, butter, and cream. Garlic is an essential addition. If you can make roast garlic, it is amazing in mashed potatoes. Otherwise, powder is fine. Milk or cream help soften your mash and improve its texture. Cream is obviously tastier, while milk is healthier. I tend to favor a softer mash (more milk/cream) that can still stand on itself.

Mash the potatoes with a spoon. I don’t quite understand why people use specialized mashing tools, since it takes only about a minute to produce the desired mash with a spoon. My preference is for a slightly chunky mash, but any consistency is possible given time and effort. Serve warm.
Tier Four: Glazed Carrots

It's 24-carrot solid vegetable.

Carrots and onions are two vegetables that are almost always present in my kitchen because they’re two of the cheapest vegetables sold in grocery stores. They are also flavorful and nutritious, which makes being poor easy.

Ingredients:

carrots
fresh parsley leaves
2 tbsp white granulated sugar
1 tbsp butter
salt

Begin by making a caramel. Pour your sugar into a pan at medium heat and let the sugar slowly melt. Do not add anything else. Meanwhile, prepare your carrots by slicing them into bite-sized pieces and tearing the leaves of parsley from their stems.

What came first, the carrot or the stick?

When the sugar has melted and turned into a beautiful deep amber color, melt your butter into it. Try to make sure that the butter is at least room temperature beforehand; this will prevent the formation of sugar lumps in your caramel. If your butter is still cold, microwave it for 10-15 seconds before adding it into the sugar. Mix into a sauce.

Add your carrots. Again, if your carrots are cold, their contact with your caramel may result in lumps. This isn’t too much of a problem for how much carrots I had, since I still had more than enough caramel to coat all the carrots. If you really care about not having lumps, you can try tempering your carrots by first submerging them in boiling water for a while. Add salt to taste.

Cook the carrots until desired consistency. For me, I like the carrots not completely soft, but not completely crispy, which is about ten minutes uncovered. If you like your carrots cooked completely soft, you may wish to cover your carrots with a lid and let them steam.

When the carrots are done, remove from heat and stir in parsley leaves. Serve warm.

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