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Wake Up Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes With A Touch Of Kimchi

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Think Mom's same old Thanksgiving mashed potatoes are boring? Jejune? Predictable?

Debbie Lee's are anything but. And they all started with a happy accident.

Lee is the owner and operator of the Los Angeles-based Korean-American restaurant Ahn Joo, and the author of Seoultown Kitchen: Korean Pub Grub To Share With Family And Friends. While Korean by heritage, Lee didn't grow up eating traditional Korean foods.

"When my parents came over here in the early '60s from Korea after the war, they planted in Jackson, Miss. My mother was too young at the time to really develop the understanding of cooking Korean food, so what she learned how to make was good ol' Southern food," says Lee.

"Mom would do everything from standard giblet gravy to some buttermilk mashed potatoes to sweet potato pie" for Thanksgiving.

But Lee's grandmother would bring a jar of kimchi — a Korean spicy pickle, usually cabbage, to Thanksgiving every year. And Lee had to put some on her plate, to be polite.

"For some reason I would follow my brother's suit, and so Robbie would put it right next to his mashed potatoes and I'd do the same, so the juice from the kimchi would end up going to the mashed potatoes, and I'd start stirring it. Hence where I sort of developed the recipe for my kimchi smashed potatoes," she says.

Lee's recipe has been a bit "doctored up" as she's grown up, she tells All Things Considered host Melissa Block. She now uses kimchi along with a combination of sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, garlic and onion boiled in milk and chicken broth. Lee says when she serves her kimchi smashed potatoes to friends, they just about go crazy for it.

But make no mistake, Lee says; it all started as "an accident of the melding of flavors on your plate."

Now Lee gives her Thanksgiving table an Asian twist on purpose.

What got us most excited was her description of her Fuji Apple Egg Rolls — her take on McDonald's apple pie, twice fried and served with a ginger mascarpone cream.

"It's essence of an apple pie, but what's great, too, is that if you're having a lot of people over, you can slice them in half, everybody can get a piece, and they're really easy to make ahead of time, put them in the freezer, take them out, and then bake them off afterwards."

You had us at "twice fried."

To hear the whole conversation with Lee, click on the audio link above. Below are some of the Korean-American mashup recipes she shared with us.

Kimchi Smashed Potatoes

1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered
1/2 pound carrots, peeled, quartered
1 yellow onion, cut in large dice
3-4 garlic cloves
1 quart chicken broth
1 quart milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 pound butter, unsalted, cut into cubes
1 cup heavy cream, warm
2 cups kimchi, drained and cut into small dice

1. Boil potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic in chicken broth and milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain well.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add butter, cream, and potato mixture. Smash well.
3. Add kimchi and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 8-10 portions

Fuji Apple Egg Rolls

3 Fuji apples, large, peeled, diced into 1/4 inch
1/4 pound butter, unsalted
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1 large egg
1 package egg roll wrappers
1 tablespoon cold water
Shortening for deep frying
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 additional teaspoon cinnamon, ground (for garnish)

1. In a large skillet, melt butter on low heat. Do not let butter burn.
2. Once butter is melted add brown sugar. Whisk well until sugar has completely melted.
3. Toss in apples and let simmer for a few minutes, making sure to stir constantly.
4. Remove from heat, add cinnamon and fold in to incorporate.
5. Spread mixture onto a sheet tray and let cool down in refrigerator.
6. Once mixture is cool, drain mixture in a fine mesh colander so that excess liquid drains well. Mix egg with cold water in a small bowl to make egg wash.
7. Assemble egg rolls by using 1 1/2 tablespoons of mixture in each wrapper and roll like you would an eggroll. Seal with egg wash.
8. In a deep pot or fryer, heat shortening to 300 degrees. Fry egg rolls until golden brown.
9. Combine powdered sugar and additional teaspoon of cinnamon well in a shaker. Dust egg rolls and serve immediately.

Yield: 12-14 egg rolls

You can also par fry and then freeze to use at a later time. Reheat at 350 degrees on a sheet tray for 5-6 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Serve with Ginger Mascarpone Cream.

Ginger Mascarpone Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, granulated
1 piece ginger root, peeled, 1 inch slice
3 tablespoons Canton (ginger liqueur)
1 cup mascarpone cheese

1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except mascarpone cheese
2. Allow to steep for about 15 minutes. Remove and cool down immediately.
3. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk together cream mixture and mascarpone cheese until light and fluffy.
4. Place in serving bowl and serve immediately.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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