It’s finally time that I get going on this food blog I “started” a few months ago. Believe it or not, it seems to be difficult to come across extra time to write a food blog while working a full time job, trying to plan a wedding and honeymoon and simultaneously trying to find an apartment. I know, seems like time would be bountiful...but alas!
The good part about taking a couple months before starting my food blog is that I’ve had some time to think about how I want to go about writing it. As I’ve said, I am by no means a chef….I’m barely a cook. You may ask then, with the hundreds (if not thousands) of other food blogs out there, why even take the time to write another one that will more than likely blend into obscurity. The reason; I just love to cook! Even after a long day at work, I honestly look forward to getting home, firing up the stove and diving head first into the night’s meal. (It doesn’t hurt that my lovely fiancee is usually right next to me in the kitchen!)
I also believe that the wholeness of the meal extends beyond the boundaries of the food to include the music you listen to while you cook.
I love baking as much as I love cooking. The idea of taking simple, wholesome ingredients and turning them into something more than the sum of their parts is enough to make me spend an entire Saturday in the kitchen. I remember the first time I made homemade baguettes and I realized that incredible bread could be made with only four simple ingredients. It was a very invigorating idea for me!
With the few months I’ve had to think about the food portion of my website I realized that I want to focus on not only one specific recipe, but rather an entire meal. Most recipe websites I’ve come across do one specific food item per recipe, but when we cook we don’t usually make just one thing. We usually have a protein, a vegetable, a grain, a starch, etc. and I think it’s important that each dish that is made compliments the meal as a whole. So I, for the most part, will be posting blogs about entire meals (wine pairings included) each time I post. I also believe that the wholeness of the meal extends beyond the boundaries of the food to include the music you listen to while you cook. Jessica and I love to listen to music that corresponds to the meal we’re cooking, and I’ll try and always include the playlist we listen to in the blog. Music adds to the whole atmosphere of the night. With the smells of the food cooking and the right music, you can easily be transported to the place your visiting in your meal before you can say “let’s pack.”
Finally (I know, shut up and get to the recipes), as the name of my website indicates, I live to travel. There is nothing more in the world I like than packing my bags and taking off to pretty much anywhere! Unfortunately, I am not made of money and can’t spend my life traveling, as much as I would love to. So instead, I try as much as I can in my day to day life to “travel at home.” When Jessica and I cook, we love to pick a specific country and cook the entire meal with authentic dishes from that country. So most of the blog posts you’ll see will be country specific dishes as Jessica and I eat our way around the world. Many times we like to pick dishes we’ve never even heard of to try! This means there are often lots of mistakes, and sometimes you’ll read a blog post about a meal we’ve had where after we’ve finished the meal, I may say these dishes didn’t really go well together. I’ll include them in the blog however, because people have different tastes and we all like our food a specific way.
Now, without further adieu, the meal:
Our Dutch Food Night
There are few things in the world I believe more than this next sentence: The most important ingredient in every meal, is wine for the cook. Every meal should start and end with wine (or something stronger if the meal calls for it). I have wine on hand at all times without exception. Some may say I drink too much, I say “sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of shut-up.” I don’t know terribly much about wine, but I find it all very fascinating and I’m constantly trying to learn everything I can.
"The most important ingredient in every meal, is wine for the cook."
This night, Jessica and I cracked open a wonderful bottle of 2011 Tenuta di Sumaro red wine from Puglia, Italy (the heel of Italy’s boot). Don’t let the fancy Italian words fool you, I have no idea what I’m talking about. I just read that on the bottle. I can tell you, however, that this is a very old vineyard with very old vines - that makes the wine very flavorful because the old vines have to work very hard to produce the grapes. It had a vanilla and berry taste to it, which went very well with the meal we had.
Our wine & bread appetizers for the evening.
While much of contemporary music from the Netherlands includes a lot of techno, hip-hop & dance music, Jessica and I tend to learn towards classical music while we cook. This meal we opted for classical composers that hail from the region. While the classical music from the Netherlands tends to err on the side of dramatic & dark, it is absolutely beautiful music and made a perfect companion to the heavy peasant foods we were making. See below for the playlist we listened to.
Bread & Oil
We started the meal with our go-to appetizer; freshly made bread and olive oil! While I usually like to make my own bread, tonight we started with a loaf we had just bought from our local bakery. We were hoping to find a loaf of some kind of Dutch bread and with a little research found a bread called “Dutch Crunch Bread” (similar to another type of bread called Tiger Bread from the Netherlands), but we were unsuccessful in finding any place locally that made it and with it being a weeknight, I didn’t have time to bake it myself. We settled for a wonderful, if somewhat less-than-crunchy, baguette. The oil we made to dip our bread in consisted of about a teaspoon each of dried basil, parley, garlic, thyme, oregano, salt & pepper. Some people will put more spices, some put less. When it’s just me, I like to include some crushed red pepper for a little extra spice, but Jessica isn’t a big spicy person, so I tend to leave it out when she’s around. Jessica and I like to experiment in the kitchen and we often try different things with our bread and oil. Sometimes we like to add balsamic vinegar, we’ve even tried red wine vinegar and parmesan cheese, but the above recipe is our usual go-to when we’re hungry!
The Side Dish
DUTCH MEAT CROQUETTES
For our side dish we chose a popular Dutch snack, the croquette! This Dutch “fast food” is a favorite of many in the Netherlands and is often served by street vendors. You’ll need onion, butter, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, parsley, 1/2 pound meat (any kind of ground chicken, beef, veal, etc), and one egg.
Preparing the Dutch Meat Croquettes
Begin by sautéing your onions until translucent in a large frying pan.
Once complete, add in your breadcrumbs and seasonings and cook on med-high heat for approximately 3-5 minutes.
Add meat and cook until brown. If it’s a little too dry you can always add in a touch of water. You’ll be forming these into balls, so make sure they’re not too dry to stick together.
Remove pan from heat and from the mixture into balls or patties. I used an ice cream scoop so I wouldn’t burn my hands.
Roll the croquettes in bread crumbs, then egg, then bread crumbs once again.
Cook them in olive oil over high heat until for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until they are fully cooked through.
The Main Dish
For our main dish we chose a classic Dutch dish, hutspot. The term hutspot is supposedly where the term “hodge-podge” was originated from, and that makes perfect sense to me as this dish seems to be just that! It is a hodge-podge of potatoes, carrots, & onions all mixed and mashed together into a one-pot meal. It is often served with sliced sausage or meatballs, and we are serving it with both! Sausage on top the hutspot and Dutch Meat Croquettes, essentially large Dutch meatballs, are on the side!
Preparing the Hutspot
Peel & cut potatoes, carrots, & onion. Depending on how you like your hutspot, you can make it chunkier with larger pieces, or chop them up smaller for a smoother consistency. Put all three ingredients in a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt.Once boiled, reduce heat and cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until the ingredients are soft enough to mash.
While the other pot boils, cut sausage on the bias and sear on each side about two minutes or until you get a nice brown on either side.
Once the potatoes are cooked (Check by pushing one against the side of the pot. If it mashes easily, they’re done.) drain the excess water from the pot. Add in a a few tablespoons of cold butter, and a 1/2 cup of milk. Mash the entire mixture together to your desired consistency. (We mashed ours to about the consistency of chunky mashed potatoes.) Salt, pepper and a touch cayenne pepper finish off the dish nicely. Serve topped with sausage.
2 Large Russett Potatoes (any type of potato will work, but we used Russett)
1 Large onion
3 Lbs of carrots
1 tsp salt (+ more for seasoning)
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
3 tbsp butter (unsalted)
1 16 oz package of sausage (kielbasa or any smoked sausage will do)
Chop potatoes, onion & carrots into chunks (everything will be mashed in the end, so it doesn’t really matter what size)
Combine above three ingredients into a large pot with water, add salt and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce heat to med-high for and cook covered for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice & cook sausage 2-3 minutes on each side.
Drain water from potato mixture and mash with a potato ricer or masher. Should be about the consistency of chunky mashed potatoes. Add in cayenne pepper, then salt & pepper to taste.
Serve topped with smoked sausage.
Dutch Meat Croquettes
1 finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsps butter
2 tbsps fresh parsley
1 lbs meat (ground beef, turkey, sausage, any kind of meat will work)
1 egg (beaten)
2 cups bread crumbs
2 cups corn
2 tbsps olive oil
Add butter to a large frying pan over med-high heat. Saute onion until translucent.
Add bread crumbs, seasonings, and chopped parsley to pan.
Add meat (you can add any kind of broth/water if the mixture is too dry. Remember, you’ll need to form meatballs/patties)
Cook until meat is cooked all the way through.
Remove pan from heat. Form mixture into balls or patties. (I used an ice cream scoop to save my fingers from burning.
Coat with bread crumbs, dip in beaten egg, then once again in breadcrumbs.
Sear croquettes on all sides (about a minute per side) over high heat until they are thoroughly cooked throughout.
Sonetina in one movement - Hendrik Andriessen, Jeannette Koekoek
Sonata in c minor ; un poco sostenuto enigico - Julius Rontgen, Jeannette Koekoek
Sonata ; Largo e grave - Hendrik Andriessen, Jeannette Koekoek
Sonata in c minor ; Allegro molto - Julius Rontgen, Jeannette Koekoek
It Happened Yesterday - Dutch Jazz Orchestra
March Millitaire - Andre Rieu
Adiago in E Major - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Old Netherland Suite I - Julius Rontgen
The Taming of the Shrew - The Royal Military Band of the Netherlands
Symfonie no 3; Ouverture - Hendrik Andriessen