Foil-pack Potatoes, Carrots and Onions

This recipe comes from my teenage adventures in Boy Scouts. Weekend camping trips often featured a Friday night foil dinner. Before leaving home we arrange thinly sliced potatoes and onions with a hamburger on top inside an aluminum foil pouch. We’d hike into the campsite, start a fire, set-up our tents and then place the foil packs on top of coals. 20-30 minutes later you had dinner.

I make this in the summer, when I don’t want to heat up the house any more than necessary. Some of the veggies get a little burn along the edges; folks jostle each other for those tasty bits.

Foil-pack Potatoes, Carrots and Onions
Servings: 8
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Special equipment: 2 40″x18″ heavy duty aluminum foil


  • 3 lbs. yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 or 2 lg. onions, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3-4 springs fresh thyme
  • kosher salt and black pepper


  1. Light your gas grill so that you have a hot side and cool side. Allow it preheat for 15 minutes (about the time it takes to assemble to foil package).
  2. Combine vegetables, oil and thyme in a large bowl. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Using hands toss ingredients until well coated with oil.
  3. Overlap the 2 pieces of foil to make a large plus-sign. Transfer the coated vegetables to the center of the foil plus-sign. Bring the two ends of the one piece of foil together and crimp the ends tightly around the vegetables. Repeat with the second piece of foil. You should now have a large foil package.
  4. Place the foil pack on the hot side of the grill. Close the cover and allow it to cook for 5 minutes. Flip the foil pack, cook again on the hot side, covered, for another 5 minutes.
  5. Move the foil pack to the cool side of grill, flipping once again. Cook for 20 more minutes, flipping the foil pack after 10 minutes.
  6. Now, if you are a trusting individual, transfer the foil pack to a large serving bowl and bring it inside. Let it rest for 5 minutes before opening and serving. Remove the thyme and, you know, a dollop of butter never hurt the taste of veggies.
  7. If you aren’t that trusting then carefully uncrimp the foil pack and check the donness of the vegetables. Then bring the foil pack inside cause you just found it was done. 🙂

The number of onions you use depends on your preference.

You can leave out the carrots if you like or throw some other 1/4″ sliced root veggies in there instead.

Be careful when opening the foil pack, there will be a fair amount of steam built up inside. At a minimum it will fog your glasses, it could give you a nasty burn if you aren’t diligent.

Potato, Chicken and Paprika Bake

The addition of one ingredient doesn’t make a dish Ethnic with a capital letter. I came across this recipe in a copy of Food Network Magazine with the title “Spanish Chicken and Potato Roast”. That seemed like an overstatement so I’ve rebranded it and rewritten the recipe a bit to follow how I prepared it.

Potato, Chicken and Paprika Bake
Servings: 3-4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes


  • 5-6 fist sized yellow-fleshed potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs.), cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil (or other fat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 5 or 6 pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. chopped chives
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into thin half-moons
  • 1 red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips


  1. Set oven to 450°F. Place a heavy casserole dish on the middle rack and allow the oven to preheat.
  2. Combine potatoes, garlic, olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave at full-power for 8 minutes.
  3. When oven is preheated transfer the partially cooked potatoes to the baking dish. Spread into an even layer and bake for 10 minutes. Be warned, you may get a bit of oil splatter or smoke when you add the potatoes to the dish.
  4. While the potatoes bake combine the paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper with the lemon juice and chives in a bowl. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat.
  5. When potato baking time has elapsed use a spatula to toss the potatoes to allow another side to brown. Scatter the onions and peppers over the potatoes. Top with the chicken and any remaining paprika-lemon-chive-spice mixture. Return to the oven.
  6. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, rotating the dish half way through the cooking time. Temp the chicken; it should reach 160-165°F before removing. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

When I followed Food Networks recipe, which used the juice of a whole lemon, all other flavors were lost to the lemon. So I cut it back and adjusted a few other amounts to suit my tastes.

Any oil that can stand a high heat should work fine. We used some goose fat that we were given in place of the olive oil.

Shepherd’s Pie II

There are probably as many versions of shepherd’s pie as their are colors in the rainbow. In fact you’ll find a variation I made back in 2010 here. As we try to eat a bit healthier I added a few more veggies, cut back on the fat (a bit) and switched to non-red meat. It was still tasty.

One of the challenges of this recipe is bringing the various components (veggies, meat and mashed potatoes) together at the same time. I’ve tried to show how I do that in the recipe below.

Shepherd’s Pie II
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 75 minutes
Total time: 2 hours


  • 2 leeks, white & light green parts chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 Hungarian wax pepper, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 4 lbs. white or yukon gold potatoes, 1″ dice
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s Frozen Roasted Corn (or regular frozen corn if Trader Joe’s is unavailable)
  • 1 1/3 lbs. ground turkey
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 Tbsp. Spanish paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • kosher salt & cracked black pepper


  1. About an hour before you want to start cooking pull the frozen corn from the freezer and leave it on the counter to thaw (or do it in the fridge overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grab a 13″x9″ glass baking dish and place it near the cooktop.
  3. Prep the potatoes, peeling all of them, then rinsing them. Cut into 1″ dice and rinse again. Then fill the pot with water so there is about 1″ of water above the potatoes. Put the pot on the stove, add a big pinch of kosher salt and cover. Heat over high heat; once it starts boiling cook for 8-10 minutes. You want fork tender potatoes, not mush.
  4. Prep the remaining veggies. You can combine the leeks and peppers in one bowl. The garlic should go in a small bowl by itself, you’ll use it with the pork.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the leeks and peppers. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss to coat with oil and cook for approx. 5 minutes until tender.
  6. Add the thawed roasted corn to the skillet and mix with the leeks and peppers. Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into pieces, to the skillet and toss until melted. Once the corn is heated through taste for flavor, add salt & pepper if necessary and spread the contents of the skillet evenly in the bottom of the 13″x9″ baking dish.
  7. Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the ground turkey, breaking up into 1-2″ cubes. Cook for 5-10 minutes, breaking up into smaller pieces, until the turkey is cooked through. Drain any liquid that accumulates. Add the Worcestershire sauce and toss with the turkey to evenly coat. Add to the 13″x9″ baking dish and spread on top of the veggies.
  8. Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and heat. Add the ground pork and use the same steps used with the turkey (break it up, cook, make smaller pieces). When cooked through add the garlic and paprika. Stir to incorporate and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add to the 13″x9″ baking dish and spread evenly.
  9. If you timed things properly the potatoes should be fork tender right about now. Drain thoroughly and return to the hot pan. Toss a couple of times to help dry off the potatoes and then mash them to a rough consistency.
  10. Heat the milk in the microwave for 1 minute on high and then add it to the potatoes. Add 4 tablespoons of butter and the sour cream as well. Stir the potatoes until they become fairly smooth. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning as needed. I usually add black pepper at this point as well.
  11. Spread the mashed potatoes over the veggies and meat in the 13″x9″ baking dish. Avoid the temptation to make the top smooth, you want some swirls and crags. Dot the top of the potatoes with pieces of the remaining butter.
  12. Bake for 40 minutes at 350°F. Raise the oven temp to 425°F and cook an additional 5 minutes to help brown the top.
  13. In general you’ll enjoy this better if you let it sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. Have a glass of wine, talk with your friends or family, wash a few dishes if you must.

As I said above timing the cooking so the potatoes are ready for mashing when you’ve finished the cooking of veggies and meat isn’t easy. If the potatoes are ready early then pause in the veggie, turkey and pork cooking to mash the potatoes. They can sit in the pot with the lid on for 15-20 minutes if needed.

Roasted red pepper, potato and chicken frittata

Hot nights call for minimal time in the kitchen and one of the fastest meals I know how to make is a frittata. Think of it as a large omelet without the folding. While we did heat the oven up to finish it off we spent maybe 30 minutes in the kitchen tops before we retreated to the relative coolness of the basement.

You’ll want a non-stick pan that is oven safe to at least 350°F. It is possible to convince a frittata to come out of a regular skillet however it requires the use of more oil and a lot of patient spatula work. We recently bought a T-fal non-stick skillet from their Professional line and have been very happy with it. It was “highly recommended” by the folks at Cook’s Illustrated and fairly inexpensive for a piece of cookware.

Roasted red pepper, potato and chicken frittata
Servings: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes


  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, rough chopped (about 1 cup total)
  • 1 lb. red potatoes
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, rough diced
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped mixed fresh herbs (we used a mix of thyme, parsley, lavender and tarragon from the garden)
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. The rack should be in the middle of the oven.
  2. Roast the red peppers. We do this using the burners of our gas cook top. Place the pepper astride the burner, light it and cook each side until it is blackened. When all sides are charred place the peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10-15 minutes. This will give the peppers time to soften from the steam released by the peppers. When peppers are cool to the touch rinse under running water to remove the charred skin. Remove the top (it should pull off easily) and rinse out the seeds. I finished the prep by slicing these into 1/4″ strips.
  3. While the peppers cool you can prep the potatoes. Give them a scrub and then slice them fairly thin. I think we used a 3/8″ slice on a mandolin. Place them in a microwave safe bowl with 1 Tbsp. water and cook on high for 5 minutes. This will help speed the cooking process in the skillet.
  4. In a bowl combine the eggs, remaining water, the chopped herbs, a large pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix with a fork or whisk to incorporate some air into the mixture.
  5. When all the prep work is complete add the oil to the skillet and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-5 minutes to begin softening them.
  6. Add the potatoes and spread over the surface of the skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes then stir. Repeat the process until the potatoes begin to soften as well. They should get a bit of color during the process.
  7. Add the roasted red pepper strips and diced chicken. Toss to combine and heat for about 1 minute.
  8. Give the eggs a quick stir and add them to the skillet. Give the skillet a quick shake to evenly distribute the contents. Reduce the heat to medium low and let it sit for 5 minutes. When the edges start to appear a bit dry you are ready to move to the oven.
  9. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top of the frittata and transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on skillet. You want the eggs to have a bit of wobble left when you remove it from the oven.
  10. Remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. If you have lived a good and true life the frittata will slide right out of the skillet onto a large plate or cutting board.

We ate the frittata as is this go around. In the past we’ve had it with a side salad, served it with a bit of salsa and even wrapped it in a piece of flat bread as a sandwich. I prefer mine hot or room temperature however it is also tasty as leftovers. Frittata “croutons” make an interesting addition to a salad.

In the past I have cooked this outside using the gas grill, closing the grill at the end to mimic the oven. It works rather well though you have to be mindful of the temp the grill gets to.

I used the last of the grilled boneless chicken breast that I cooked up last week in this recipe.

Cauliflower and potato curry with fried cheese

This dish is based on a couple of different things. The first was a recipe I made earlier this year from Epicurious for Tofu Aloo Gobi, aka Cauliflower and Potato Curry. The second was an episode of Spice Goddess where the host fried some paneer until golden and added it to a curry. I removed the tofu from the first recipe, and used a queso de freir instead of paneer as the local market doesn’t carry paneer.

Cauliflower and Potato Curry with Fried Cheese

Recipe under the cut

Potato Leek Soup

Cold weather invokes the need for soup in my mind. Not just any soup but something hearty and filling. Potato Leek Soup doesn’t quite cover what’s in this recipe but it’s shorter than potato, carrot, red onion & leek soup with lots of dairy added.

Part of what I like about this soup is the make ahead aspect of most of the veges. They can be prepped and cooked a few days ahead or even a month in advance if frozen after cooking.

Potato Leek Soup
Step 1 – roast the veges

4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 pound carrots
2 red onions
olive oil
salt & pepper
fresh thyme

Peel potatoes & carrots. Using a mandolin slice potatoes and carrots into 1/4″ slabs. Slice red onions as well to a similar thickness.

Create a foil pouch and add the veges. Pour over a goodly amount of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and few springs of thyme. Close up the pouch and roast in a 425°F oven for about 40 minutes. Check vegetables to make sure they are cooked through.

I’ve also roasted this combination of vegetables on the grill in the same foil pouch type set-up. It makes a nice side dish to grilled chicken.

If you aren’t making the soup immediately cool thoroughly and then refrigerate until ready to make the soup.

Step 2 – make the soup

2 bunches of leeks
canola oil
2 cups vegetable broth
4 cups milk
ground ancho chili
salt & pepper

Prep the leeks by slicing off the bottoms and most of the green leaving mostly white and light green. Split the leek in half and then rinse under running water to remove dirt and mud. Once cleaned slice into half moons.

Heat a large dutch oven (10 qt plus), add a couple of tablespoons of oil and saute the leeks with a bit of salt & pepper for 5-7 minutes until tender. Add the roasted vegetables, broth and enough water to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are heated through, 10-15 minutes.

Using a food processor work in batches to puree the vegetables. When everything is pureed return it to the dutch oven and put it back over medium heat. Add the milk one cup at a time, stirring to fully incorporate each cup.

Allow the soup to come back up to temperature and serve. We garnished ours with a roasted red pepper coulis. A bit of chopped chives or a dollop of sour cream would have been nice as well.