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Unusual Starch dish wanted.

I have a new 2x month evening group meeting and I've been assigned "Starch."

I've already taken:

* rice-purlo-LowCountry-ChickenBog, which proved to be too much protein.

* whole wheat pasta with broccoli in Alfredo sauce [too "healthy"!!]

* flavoured mashed potatoes [too "plain"!!!]

I'm next thinking grits or polenta [or both as a "tasting" idea] but....

I'd like something unusual and NOT expensive.

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  1. Do you have any idea what the other dishes will be? Off the top of my head, some of my favorite starchy sides include spaetzle (these can be served simply boiled or boiled then browned in butter, with or without sauce, and you can add any type of herb or flavoring you like to the dough to make them more interesting) , a nice cheesy potato gratin (or pommes anna, if you just want lots of butter and no cheese), fried rice, risotto, herbed couscous, latkes, savory bread pudding, a quinoa or bulgur wheat based salad (this type of recipe usually works will with Israeli couscous too), and of course mac and cheese!

    1. Quinoa, or Israeli couscous/tabbouleh, are real conversation starters, and so darn easy to make. You can get either at Trader Joes. OOPS are there Trader Joes in Beijing?

      Just to prove my point I see they are already mentioned above! I just made my first tabbouleh using bulgar and Israeli couscous, it will be appearing on the table at my BBQs this summer. Quinoa I like to make a cold salad with vegetables like cucumber and tomato, maybe some feta and mint etc.

      If you want something winter-y, potato croquettes seem to please everyone.

      1. How about pierogies or some other type of starchy dumpling (I second the spaetzle suggestion). Or the quinoa salad with mango and curried yogurt on epicurious.

        1. Deep fried ravioli stuffed with cheese. Marinara dipping sauce. Do half fontina and the other half ricotta.

          1. I've had a wonderful baked grits dish with green onions and smoked gouda.
            Curried Cous Cous
            Ina Garten has a wild mushroom lasagna with a bechemel sauce that looks really good.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

              I make a grits/polenta dish with shrimp and feta on top. Guess that's not really inexpensive though, unless you have some shrimp laying around. It's a meal in itself, although I was given it as an appetizer.

            2. Not sure if you can get plantains in Beijing, but one of my new favorite sides is as follows:
              Saute thick slices of ripe plantain in butter, stir in a hint of brown sugar, and when it has all come together, add a shot of bourbon.

              This goes_ phenomenally_ well with roasted meats.

              1. I take it that your contributions have been criticized? You must be cooking for a picky group. You can always do a corn pudding. You can fancy it up with whatever pleases you. Or you could make a spoon bread. I've seen a recipe in Joy of Cooking. I think spooning up good soft cornbread would be a wonderful starch.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sueatmo

                  Seconded that this group is hella picky. What about a savory bread pudding? You can add whatever you like to it.

                2. How about baked potatoes with a small assortment of toppings(sometimes called jacketed potatoes)? I realize baked potatoes aren't unusual but the right toppings can make them very welcome. A creamed mushroom sauce is very good on them. Chili and cheese is very good. Broccoli and cheese sauce would work.

                  1. - savory steel cut oats
                    - congee/jook
                    - buckwheat pilaf
                    - gnocchi
                    - celery root or kohlrabi puree or gratin
                    - polenta "fries" (or grilled or pan-seared polenta cakes)

                    lots of options for the seasoning/flavors of those dishes, so you can adjust according to what else is being served.

                      1. branching off from pierogies, how about Potato Knishes? essentially the Jewish pierogi. i like to do my potato mashed with pureed cooked onion and pureed roasted garlic, along with S & P. they're a step up from mashed potatoes. and the name should be unusual :)

                        depending when you can get ube/purple yam, you could do a whole host of unusual things with these... if you have access to these, i have a few good recipes if you're interested.

                        Jerusalem artichokes--
                        -"croutons" - cube em, toss em with salt, pepper, a little oil and/or melted butter, a couple of bay leaves, thyme springs, spread on a baking sheet and roast til golden and crispy
                        -sunchoke chips - fry those bad boys like potato chips

                        Arancini... if you don't mind making the risotto first

                        Spanakopita - don't know if it's "starchy" enough, or if it might be perceived as too "healthy..."

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Emme

                          If you like making pasta, Lidia has a recipe for fregola, from Sardinia, which is like couscous but it's toasted before cooking. Here's the link: http://lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail...

                          And here is her recipe for making it into a casserole: http://www.keyingredient.com/recipes/...

                          1. re: Emme

                            Emme, great call on the knishes and the arancini - i love both ideas.

                            i'm not so sure i'd serve sunchokes to this group. they sound like a tough crowd, and if some of them end up with gastric discomfort from the dish i'm afraid they may kick the OP out of the club ;)

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              gotta admit, it'd win points for unusual :)

                          2. Take a stuffing recipe that has chestnuts in it. Make it as is, or add cream of mushroom soup and turn it into a casserole, or add eggs and cream and turn it into bread pudding.

                            If you really want to be unusual, look for a savory tapioca dish.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: FoodPopulist

                              I've seen stuffing served after being baked in a cupcake pan, that could work.

                              1. Kasha (buckwheat) and bowties are a perennial favourite at the East-European Jewish table. Cook the kasha as you would a pilaf, using good stock of course, add cooked bowties at the end, season, and you're good to go.

                                1. I made my grandmother's baked beans with lots of salt pork for a pot luck, and the Chinese guests couldn't stop eating it.

                                  1. Two ideas; if you like one I can post the recipe:

                                    -potato-caraway croquettes
                                    -potato cubes with garlic, cream, and gruyere

                                    1. a few more thoughts --

                                      tamales!

                                      creamy corn cobbler with a buttermilk based biscuit topping

                                      onion tarte tatin

                                      poutine

                                      millas http://frenchfood.about.com/od/sidedi...

                                      falafel

                                      panzanella

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Emme

                                        I'd love to hear how that omion tarte tatin is made!

                                      2. Risotto
                                        Corn Pudding
                                        Spoon Bread
                                        Hush Puppies
                                        Mac 'n' Cheese

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          Maybe new friends? Sorry, I'm kidding...but if you brought me mashed potatoes I wouldn't say, "Too plain" I would say "Thank you" and maybe "Pass the butter, please". It would obviously help to know what menu you are working with, but when I get tired of the usual suspects I usually go with polenta or a barley 'risotto'. Even though they qualify more as 'bread' than as a side-starch, a basket of corn muffins or yorkshire puddings (made in a muffin tin) might work.

                                        2. Have you tried farro risotto? It is really yum.

                                            1. OP here-- thanks so much!!!

                                              This is a group who claims "not to care" about food [clearly they do based upon indicated preferences]. Each person has an assigned category, and coordination is frowned upon for being a hassle.

                                              However, I'm wanting "unusual" in order to stretch them [and me?] a bit!

                                              This week I'm just going with couscous and some chopped veg/herbs.

                                              Part of the issue for me is that I either have to make a crock-pot meal or a 30min prep thing based upon work and meeting times... so for my skill level, croquettes are out!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                with a "cous cous thing", be very generous with the herbs and citrus. add both zest and juice to the dish. whenever i make any kind of grain salad, i use mountains of fresh mint, parsley and either basil or cilantro. add chopped/roasted nuts for texture contrast. chopped dried fruit, like apricots, prunes or cranberries are also nice bits of texture and color.

                                              2. Op again -- this is what I did:
                                                couscous
                                                diced red, yellow, and orange bell peppers
                                                a tub of "deli fresh salsa" which I rinsed and drained thoroughly

                                                I assembled it all in about 8 minutes and the ladies loved it.

                                                Oh -- their contributions:
                                                Protein--baked chicken [made by host]
                                                Veg--deli steamed green beans, deli steamed mixed veggies, deli mashed potatoes*
                                                Dessert: some sort of cranberry coffee cake

                                                *it is a pet peeve of mine when people do green peas, potatoes, or corn as a veg

                                                1. hmmmm... I don't know how easy it is to come by bulgur in Beijing. If you move way over to the western side of Asia, it's pretty common. If you have access to it there is a traditional Turkish pilav that is made using bulgur instead of rice. Onions are sauteed in olive oil, some pine nuts are added and toasted, then the bulgur is stirred in to absorb all of the oil and toast a bit. Black currants are added, along with some chopped fresh dill, a little chopped fresh mint, salt and stock, then simmered over low heat until all of the stock is absorbed and the bulgur is tender. It makes a really nice "starch" to accompany just about anything. It's not expensive on a portion by portion scale, but if you have to go out and buy a kilo of pine nuts just to get a handful for this dish, it's not so cheap. For me, this ALWAYS gets rave reviews. I thought about suggesting risotto, but for a crowd and can't be served immediately? No way! '-)

                                                  EDIT: The bulgur pilav can be made ahead and kept warm, so it shouldn't be a problem. I've never had any left over to see if it reheats okay, but I don't know why it shouldn't. Bulgur, unlike some rices, does not reharden at the center when refrigerated or left over.

                                                  1. What about a millet (小米) pilaf?

                                                      1. How in the world is Alfredo sauce EVER "too heathly"? I can understand that the whole wheat pasta makes it healthier, but slathering it in a cheese sauce does not.

                                                        Sorry not to be more helpful, but that simply baffled me.

                                                        I do like sandylc's suggestion for: potato-caraway croquettes.
                                                        Potato and fried - how can you go wrong?
                                                        If you think caraway is too risky you can always do another variation of the same theme.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: mahlzeit_yumyum

                                                          Amen to the how can Alfredo sauce be "too healthy?" ESPECIALLY if it's true Alfredo sauce: Parmesan cheese and butter. Whooo-eeeee... As the saying goes, "Heart attack on a plate" no matter how much broccoli you stir in!