January 12, 2010

Soul Warming Comfort Food on a Rainy Tuesday Afternoon

There is a hollow in my chest, a longing for warmth, sunshine and summer.

It seems like it hits me every year at this time, directly after Christmas and New Years.  The grey rainy weeks that fill in between starting the New Year and the romantic inclinations of Valentine’s Day in February are sparse and dreary. It’s still dark outside in the morning when I wake up, and January in Portland is soggy. Dismal really. If I hadn’t promised myself I would stay strong and eat healthy food and take walks (rain or shine) you might find me contentedly cocooned in blankets on my couch watching an endless marathon of Sex in the City re-runs and gorging myself on cheesy, gooey, warm comfort foods that are laden with fat and calories. My personal form of Urban Hibernation is to eat things I shouldn’t and try not to budge out of a cushy pillow enhanced nest.

However my lovelies, I am steadfast... and one of the main reasons I’m sticking to my healthy cooking spree is a purely vain one: I want to slide languidly into my jeans without having to jiggle, shimmy and shake then hold my breath for the remainder of the day. I don’t want to feel like a sausage stuffed into my clothes.

My friend Lisa says she CRAVES salty snacks every once in a while. I do especially when the weather is cold and rainy.  She and I have cheered each other on for the past few weeks so I think she might love this. It's a less sinful version of French Fries that appeases the salty/crisp hankering we all seem to get now and again, but without the greasy high calorie sucker punch to the midsection. 

3 large baking potatoes (about 2 1/3 pounds) peeled, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide planks, each plank cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi*
1 teaspoon sugar
Place rack in top third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Place potato strips on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Roast 25 minutes. Using spatula, turn chips over. Roast until tender and golden brown around edges, about 25 minutes longer.
Mix salt, shichimi, and sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle over chips.

*Special Tip: I HIGHLY recommend is to go the extra mile and visit an Asian grocery market or just go online to find a jar of the fabulous Japanese spice blend, Shichimi Togarashi.   It's a super flavorful blend of black peppercorns, dried tangerine peel, ground red chile pepper, ground poppy seeds and garlic powder.  It's bright and spicy with a smoky undertone and without any added fat, it makes these frites magically delicious(and addicting)
Plus, you can use it as a flavor enhancer on so many other things.

I’ve served these fries as an opening act in folded parchment cones at a party before and they were gone within the first five minutes. Guests were unabashedly licking their fingers. 
But tonight, I want to build my fort on the couch with every feather pillow in the house and a cuddly blanket, throw this perfect movie into the DVD player and settle back for an evening of guilty pleasure.  

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