Tuesday, January 26, 2010

West Africa Meets Western Europe, Part II

Oh, you're wishing for warmer weather, Diana?  Don't worry - I'm working up a little post all about sweating -- just for you!  Anyway, I'm so glad that you enjoyed my Nigerian dinner.  Sharing food in Yorubaland is a symbol of companionship and a promise of peace.  Now we cannot make war against one another!  (I know your kind.  You Cornhuskers are notorious war-mongers.)

So are you ready for my take on Dutch food?

As far as I can tell, Dutch cuisine relies heavily on meat, cheese and potatoes.  But what European cuisine doesn’t include plenty of meat and cheese?  And as a certain historian friend reminded us over dinner, potatoes probably didn’t become an important part of the Dutch diet until the nineteenth century.  So why do we identify certain foods with a particular nation-state?  And when did ‘Dutch’ become a signifier of national origins anyway?  (Insert note from said historian-friend: “um … also in the nineteenth century.  After the Napoleonic wars and the Congress at Vienna, the victors re-divided parts of Europe and set in motion what historians see as the rise of nationalistic movements.” . . . Thanks, historian!)  Wait, I’ve lost my train of thought . . .

Oh yeah.  Niek not only graciously put up with us crashing in his apartment for two weeks, he also cooked us a delicious meal.  Stampot.  As I understand it, this one-pot dish is the beef stroganoff of the Netherlands.  (Or, for our California friends and family: the salad of the Netherlands.  I still can’t reconcile myself to the idea of salad-as-a-meal, unless that salad includes a large helping of meat and a side of bread.  My mom made an awesome Hot Thai Beef Salad.  Now that’s a meal.) 

Ok, here’s where I admit that I wasn’t paying terribly close attention to what Niek was doing as he cooked because I was packing/baking a pie/drinking.  Phew.  I also apparently forgot to take any pictures.  So for a visual, here is an earlier picture of Niek making dinner.  Look at that poise, that focus.  Even James is paying rapt attention to the way he is seasoning the onions.

Back to the stampot.  I remember a sausage being warmed up - a sausage that we bought out of a bargain bin at the HEMA (the Dutch Target).  Apparently, it is called ‘rookworst’ and is very Dutch.  Rumor has it that the Dutch are a thrifty bunch, so it seems right that this rookworst is their favorite sausage.  (I, too, have a fine sense of thrift: my favorite food is a $1.59 chocolate-banana shake from a Sonic Drive-in.)  And then there were lots and lots and lots of potatoes being boiled and mashed.  I also remember Niek stirring bags of something called ‘andijve,’ although it is more like a lettuce-y kale, into the potatoes.  Then there was the seasoning, courtesy of the former Dutch colonies (everyone gets in on the stampot fun!): cumin, ground coriander seeds, nutmeg (freshly grated, of course).  We’re talking gourmet home-cooking here, people.  Dutch style.

The finished product:

Source: Dutch people . . . as interpreted by Diana!

Approximately 2 lbs. of potatoes (Niek always guesstimates and throws about two medium potatoes per person in the pot)
½ lb. cubed bacon
andijve or similar greens, roughly chopped (Note: After my exhaustive 30 second search on the internet, I’m pretty sure andijve is escarole.  If you can’t find that, I would recommend a hearty green like kale.)
1 rookworst or similar pre-cooked, smoked sausage (optional)
salt, pepper, ground coriander seeds, nutmeg

1.  Peel and roughly cut potatoes.  Place in a pot and fill with water until the water covers about 2/3 of the potatoes.  Cook until soft, but not mushy, about 15 minutes.
2.  In the meantime, cook the bacon and reserve the grease from the pan.
If you want to serve sausage, as well, begin to warm the rookworst by placing it in simmering water.  Once warmed, slice into 1/3” pieces.
3. Once your potatoes are cooked, drain the pot.  Add a small amount of milk to the pot of potatoes and begin mashing with a potato masher.  We use one like this.  http://www.amazon.com/Oxo-Good-Grips-Potato-Masher/dp/B00004OCJK
4.  To get a good mashed consistency, continue to add milk and a bit of the bacon grease until the potatoes no longer seem too dry.  You don’t want to overmash here.  The potatoes should be a bit “lumpy.”
5.  Season to taste.  You’ll need very little salt because of the bacon and sausage.  Niek uses probably 1 tsp. coriander seeds and scrapes the nutmeg over the rasp about a dozen times.
6.  Stir in the bacon and sausage.
7. To prevent too much wilting, fold in the andijve until its well incorporated just before serving.

This is everything you need on one plate.  Carbs?  Check.  Vegetables?  Check.  Sausage?  Check.  I was full after about five bites.  Stampot is the perfect winter meal, filling you up with warm potatoes all the way down to your toes.  Thanks to wonderful friends for introducing us to such fine potato-based cuisine!

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