By Cheryl Simone

Two side starches that prove one unique ingredient can turn good ole rice or mashed potatoes into something memorable.

Almond Potatoes
(This is a variation of tater tots and potato croquettes)

Ingredients:

1-2 pounds of Russet potatoes, made into mashed potatoes (peeled, boiled, mashed, cooled)
1-2 ounces chives, finely chopped
4 Egg yolks, 2 eggs
Butter, unsalted, melted, about ¼ pound
Kosher salt/pepper
Nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
1 cup flour (may need more)
Sliced almonds, crushed slightly

Directions:

1. Combine mashed potatoes, egg yolks, chives and butter in mixer. Season generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
2. Set up 3 part breading station: flour, slightly beaten whole eggs, almonds.
3. Form potatoes into cylinders about 3-4 inches long. Bread all pieces, making sure to coat all croquettes thoroughly with almonds.
4. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or overnight.
5. Heat oil in pan over high heat to 350 degrees. Or drop in fryer for 1-2 minutes until lightly brown.
6. Finish heating through in oven. Serve warm.

Rice Pilaf with Spiced Caramelized Onions, Oranges and Pistachio

1. Onions
Unsalted butter
Olive oil
4 onions, 3 thin sliced (mandoline) and 1 small dice
Allspice, cinnamon
Melt butter/olive oil; add sliced onions, reduce heat to low and cook slowly until soft and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Add allspice and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. Apricots
2 Oranges, juice and small strips or grated zest
Dry apricots, small dice
Pour orange juice over dry apricots to re-hydrate. (add juice to cover)

3. Rice
Small diced Onion (above)
1 shallot, small dice
White Rice
Butter/olive oil
Water or chicken stock
Thyme sprig
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In oven-compatible saucepan, heat butter and olive oil. Add diced onion and shallot and slowly cook until soft, but not brown. Add rice, salt and pepper. Stir well to coat rice. Cook rice 2-3 minutes.
Add water or chicken stock to rice, about one knuckle above top of rice (ration: about 2 cups water to 1 cup rice). Bring to gentle boil. Add thyme sprig. Cover tightly (with foil) and put in oven, about 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and fluff with fork.

4. Garnish and Finish
Pistachios, roughly chopped
Pomegranates (optional), cleaned
Add drained apricots, orange and onions to rice. Garnish with pistachios (you may mix a few pistachios in the rice). Also garnish with pomegranates (optional).

Susan Delbert joined The Fourth Estate Restaurant at the National Press Club as Executive Chef after working at The Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C. as Sous Chef for several years. Delbert has worked in several Washington restaurants, including The Oval Room, BeDuCi in Dupont Circle and Gerard’s Place. She started her culinary career as a Front of the House Maitre d’ in Clyde’s of Chevy Chase. She trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where she graduated at the top of her class. She was an invited participant in an Italian regional cooking program sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission.

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