As the days get shorter and the weather less predictable I tend to do more hybrid cooking. I’ll start a dish out in the Sun Oven and finish it stove top or in the conventional oven. This recipe lends itself perfectly to dual heat sources. The carrots and potatoes can be solar roasted early in the day, then if the clouds roll in, or you want to eat after sunset, the assembled dish can be baked in your indoor oven at dinnertime.
Sun Oven Potato and Carrot Bake
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 pound carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 to 1 cup milk, warmed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Set Sun Oven out to preheat.
Put the carrots in a shallow pot, add 1/3 cup water, and dot with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cover and transfer to the Sun Oven. Arrange the potatoes around the sides of the pot and on the lid if they don’t all fit. Cook until carrots and potatoes are tender, about 2 hours. Leave the Sun Oven out. Press the carrots and any cooking juices through a ricer into a large bowl. Cut the potatoes in half, scoop out the flesh, and press through the rice into the bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, cheese, and gradually add the milk until reaching the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt. Butter an oval roasting pan or baking dish. Spread the potato mixture out in the pan (Can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill). Cover and bake in the Sun Oven until heated through and browned, about 45 minutes. (For conventional ovens, preheat to 350˚F and bake uncovered).
Solar braised potatoes couldn’t be easier to make. Just spread the spuds out in a single layer in a cast iron pan; small varieties such as fingerlings or butterball work best. Toss in some garlic or onions. Add enough water or broth to reach about halfway up. Drizzle with olive oil or dot with butter. Add bay leaves, rosemary, or other herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and braise in the Sun Oven until the potatoes are tender. A few minutes on the stove over high heat to let the remaining water evaporate completes the dish.
Chipotle chiles give these whipped sweet potatoes a smokey, spicy kick. Add them a little at a time until the heat is right for your taste.
Spicy Sun Oven Whipped Sweet Potatoes
(adapted for the Sun Oven from epicurious.com)
2 1/2 to 3 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 to 2 chipotle chile in adobo, minced to a paste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
Set Sun Oven out to preheat.
Put the sweet potatoes in a large roasting pan, cover and bake int the Sun Oven until very soft, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Leave the Sun Oven out. Let the potatoes cool enough to handle then cut in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Beat the potatoes, minced chiles (to taste), butter, and salt with an electric beater until smooth. Spread the mixture out in a greased baking dish. Cover the dish with tin foil, then a dark tea towel and bake in the Sun Oven until hot, 35 to 40 minutes.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
I set my Sun Oven out first thing in the morning, even if I don’t know what I’ll be cooking, just so it will be ready when I am. Sometimes I toss in a pan of bacon too, because crispy sun cooked bacon always comes in handy at some point during the day.
Sun Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Bacon
1/2 pound bacon
1 1/2 pound fingerling potatoes
If you’ve been following this blog you have probably realized by now that I am not a solar cooking purist. Sometimes for fun I like to do all the steps of a recipe in the Sun Oven and it’s nice to know it the back of my mind that things like sauteing and steaming can be done in it if necessary, but for my everyday cooking I usually choose the cooking method based on convenience and results. I cook the green beans for this savory pie the way I learned in Italy, because I think they taste better, and since the potatoes cook while I’m preparing the beans I boil them inside too. Once the pie is assembled it goes in to the Sun Oven to bake.
Solar Green Bean and Potato Pie (adapted from ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’ by Marcella Hazan)
Baked potatoes and the Global Sun Oven are a match made in heaven. Just place scrubbed potatoes directly on the leveling tray along side the pot, or on top of it, for the perfect accompaniment to many a main dish. You don’t even have to poke holes in them. If you don’t feel like cooking at all you can always pop a few in the cooking chamber and rustle up some toppings for a light weeknight meal. And, if you want to make it look like you put a little effort into it, make these fancy looking accordion potatoes.
Rosemary-Parmesan Accordion Potatoes
1 potato per person
freshly grated parmesan cheese
Set Global Sun Oven out to preheat.
Put a potato on a cutting board and lay a wooden spoon next to it. Cut 8 to 10 slices down the potato until the knife reaches the spoon handle; leaving the base of the potato intact. Place the sliced potatoes in a lidded roasting pan, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place a sprig of rosemary between each slice. Bake until tender; about 1 hour.
For serving, remove the rosemary sprigs and sprinkle with grated cheese.
If I have left over meat from the lamb shanks and beans I use it to make shepherd’s pie. The filling is a lot less meatier than most shepherd’s pie recipes. The lamb is more of a flavoring, not the main attraction. I don’t follow a recipe, but it’s very easy to make. Sauté a sliced onion in some olive oil with about 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms in a large skillet, add a chopped zucchini, 1/2 cup of water and a packet of brown gravy mix. Stir in the lamb and some frozen peas. Put it in an oval lidded roasting pan or a casserole dish, top with mashed potatoes (I’m sure you have your own favorite recipe) cover and bake in the Global Sun Oven until heated through and browned on top. If you like a meatier pie you can always throw in an extra lamb shank when you make the shanks and beans or you can used ground meat browned in the skillet.
This is a much lighter potato gratin than the traditional, heavy on cream and cheese, version.
Sicilian Potato Gratin
1 garlic clove, halved
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped onions
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
6 Tbs grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
3 Tbs drained capers
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (use vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian dish)
Set Global Sun Oven up to preheat. Rub 11×7 – inch glass baking dish with cut side of garlic clove. Brush dish with olive oil. Heat 1 Tbs oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes (or brown in the Global Sun Oven using a light weight dark pan).
Arrange 1/4 of the potatoes in even layer in prepared dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter 1/3 of the onions over. Sprinkle with 1 Tbs Pecorino Romano and 1/4 of the capers. Repeat for two more layers drizzling 1/2 Tbs olive oil on third layer.
Arrange remaining potato slices over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remaining capers. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 Tbs olive oil. Pour chicken broth over. Press down on potatoes to compact gratin.
Cover gratin tightly with foil, cover with a dark tea cloth, place in Sun Oven, and bake until potatoes are tender, 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining 3 Tbs Pecorino Romano. Bake gratin uncovered until cheese is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let gratin stand 10 minutes at room temperature before serving.