Saturday, December 27, 2008

Beets Are Awesome!

Day after Christmas, we had... you guessed it, Christmas Leftovers. Yum! My mother-in-law left quite a bit of turkey and salad here, so I cooked up a pot of rice and we made a meal of it. The turkey had been roasted, plus re-heated in the oven here, and I was worried about it being a little dry if I stuck it in the oven again. So instead, I followed an old trick taught to me by my dear old grandma that also stretches your leftovers a little. I took all the meat off the bone and cut it into small bite-size pieces, then put it in a large sauce-pan. I had about a half cup of leftover 'juice' - drippings from the roasting pan - and I added that to the pan also. While that warmed up, I got down a handy packet of 'instant' turkey gravy mix and whisked it with a cup of cold water (following the directions on the packet). When the stuff in the saucepan was nice and hot, I dumped the gravy mixture in, and stirred just until it came to a simmer, then cut it off and let it sit while I finished up the salad. It was great over the rice, and very filling.

I mentioned the salad - we call it Ensalada Rusa, or Russian Salad. Russian salad is generally any salad made of a mixture of cut up veggies, and sometimes meat, bound with a mayonnaise dressing. Here's the low down on the Peruvian version of it, which ALWAYS contains beets:

4 medium sized beets
4 medium sized carrots
4 medium-small potatoes (around the same size as the beets)

You need to roast or boil all the veggies until soft, but not mushy. I do the potatoes and beets in the microwave and the carrots on the stove. You can peel and cut up the carrots before cooking, then it's easier to test the texture and how done they are.

Beets - trim the tops down to about 1", then put them in an inch of water in a 2 quart casserole and stick in the microwave. It takes me about 25 minutes in my microwave. I cook ten minutes, then roll the beets over. Once they're tender (you can stick a fork in easily and the skin should be loose) put them into cold water to cool down. Once they're cool to the touch, you'll find that the tops/skins slide right off.

Cook the potatoes the same way - unpeeled. They cook much faster, of course, cook them 5 minutes at a time and check. Poke a few holes in the skin with a fork or knife before cooking, so they don't 'explode'. Once they're cooked, again, the skin will peel off very easily.

Once all your veggies are cooked, you want them all cut up into small, bite-sized pieces.

Put your cut up veggies in a large bowl, and mix with your favorite dressing. Typically, mayonnaise is used for this. I like to make ranch dressing and use, others like with Miracle Whip (which I find disgusting!). The quantity of dressing is pretty much a matter of taste, feel free to play around with it. Just start with about a cup, and if that's not enough, add a little at a time.

This is another one of those things you don't want to stir real vigorously, or you'll end up smashing your potatoes and it just won't be as pretty. The juice from the beets mixes with the dressing and gives this a lovely color that perks up a plate in winter when served on a lettuce leaf.

My mother in law adds chopped up, tender-crisp green beans to hers, and a lot of people throw in a couple handfuls of peas.

(Yukon golds are good potatoes for this, as they don't get mushy - you can also use new red potatoes, if they're very small, use a few extra. You want basically equal amounts of the three veggies)
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