EM­BRAC­ING THE POTATO

There are so many de­li­cious ways to pre­pare them: steamed, boiled, baked, mashed, smashed, roasted or fried

Orlando Sentinel - - Cooking & Eating - By David Ta­nis

Cheap, nour­ish­ing, em­i­nently avail­able and fuss­free, the hum­ble potato is just the thing for these days and weeks of stay-at-home, nearly non­stop cook­ing.

Pota­toes have al­ways had mass ap­peal. And I find them be­yond ap­peal­ing, re­ally. How deep is my love for pota­toes? The mere men­tion of them makes my pulse race, starts me sali­vat­ing, makes my mouth wa­ter and drool.

Pota­toes are un­de­ni­ably de­li­cious, and there are so many ways to pre­pare them — steamed, boiled, baked, mashed, smashed, roasted or fried. Sim­ply slathered with but­ter or anointed with olive oil, the only sea­son­ing re­quired is a lit­tle salt. But a sprin­kling of black pep­per from the mill or a dab of sour cream or a bit of chopped pars­ley, green onion or chives im­proves the ex­pe­ri­ence for not much ex­tra ef­fort.

These ba­sic prepa­ra­tions re­veal but the ice­berg’s tip. There are an end­less num­ber of potato soups, pan­cakes, stews, stuff­ings, souf­flés. Gratins, gnoc­chi, sal­ads, samosas, pies. Ev­ery cul­ture has a potato reper­toire, which means a potato lover’s op­por­tu­ni­ties are with­out bound­ary.

Un­der the best cir­cum­stances, you can count on ten­der new pota­toes in the spring and sum­mer. Red­skinned boil­ers, earthy rus­sets, yel­low-fleshed Yukon, pur­ple Peru­vians and diminu­tive fin­ger­lings are nor­mally ob­tain­able through­out the year. For the recipes that fol­low, medi­um­sized yel­low pota­toes are ideal, with rus­sets as a sec­ond choice.

These dishes may be con­sid­ered the first course, main course or side. Per­son­ally, I rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity to make a meal of pota­toes only.

Oven-fried patatas bravas

(crispy pota­toes with two sauces)

Makes: 4 ap­pe­tizer serv­ings To­tal time: 30 min­utes

For the pota­toes: 2 pounds yel­low-fleshed or rus­set pota­toes, peeled and cut in 1 1⁄2-inch chunks Kosher salt

1⁄2 cup ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 1 head gar­lic, sep­a­rated into cloves but not peeled

For the salsa brava:

2 ta­ble­spoons ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 2 gar­lic cloves, minced 2 ta­ble­spoons all-pur­pose flour 1 ta­ble­spoon tomato paste 1 ta­ble­spoon pi­men­tón dulce, or use sweet pa­prika 1 tea­spoon pi­men­tón pi­cante, 1⁄2 tea­spoon chipo­tle chile pow­der or 1⁄4 tea­spoon cayenne 1 cup chicken broth or wa­ter 1 ta­ble­spoon sherry vine­gar

Kosher salt For the al­li­oli: 2 egg yolks 4 gar­lic cloves, pounded, finely minced or grated

1 1⁄2 cups ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil

Kosher salt and black pep­per

1. Heat oven to 450 de­grees. Put potato chunks in a large bowl, sea­son gen­er­ously with salt and toss to coat. Leave for a few min­utes to let pota­toes ab­sorb salt. Add olive oil and un­peeled gar­lic cloves and toss to coat well. (Don’t skimp on the oil; it can be strained and saved af­ter cook­ing for fu­ture use.)

2. Trans­fer pota­toes (and gar­lic cloves) and oil to a large cast-iron skil­let or heavy roast­ing pan. Make sure to have pota­toes in a sin­gle layer with­out crowd­ing. (If nec­es­sary, use two pans.) There should be a good 1⁄2-inch oil in the bot­tom of the pan. Add more if re­quired.

3. Place pan in oven and roast for 15 to 20 min­utes, un­til potato chunks are well browned on the bot­tom. With a metal spat­ula, care­fully turn chunks over. Re­duce heat to 400 de­grees, and con­tinue roast­ing un­til pota­toes are well browned and crisp, about an­other 15 to 20 min­utes.

4. While pota­toes are roast­ing, make the two sauces. For the salsa brava, put 2 ta­ble­spoons olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add gar­lic and let siz­zle with­out brown­ing, then stir in flour and let mix­ture siz­zle. Stir in tomato paste, pi­men­tón dulce and pi­men­tón pi­cante, then add chicken broth grad­u­ally, stir­ring well as the sauce thick­ens. Bring to a gen­tle sim­mer, add vine­gar and cook for 5 min­utes un­til the sauce has a gravy­like con­sis­tency, but isn’t too thick. Thin with a lit­tle more broth or wa­ter, if nec­es­sary. Sea­son with salt to taste.

5. For the al­li­oli, put egg yolks and gar­lic in a mor­tar or small bowl and whisk to­gether. (Al­ter­na­tively, use a mini food pro­ces­sor or stick blender, see note.) Add oil a few drops at a time, whisk­ing vig­or­ously with each ad­di­tion. As the sauce thick­ens, add olive oil a tea­spoon at a time. If the aioli gets too thick, whisk in 1 ta­ble­spoon wa­ter, then con­tinue to whisk in re­main­ing oil. The fin­ished sauce should have the con­sis­tency of softly whipped cream. Sea­son to taste with salt and pep­per.

6. When pota­toes are ready, use spat­ula to trans­fer to a pan lined with pa­per tow­els to blot, then to a warm serv­ing dish. Sprin­kle lightly with salt. Serve warm with the two sauces.

Tips: To make in a blender or food pro­ces­sor, use 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk in­stead of only yolks. Driz­zle oil in a thin stream with mo­tor run­ning un­til the sauce thick­ens, which takes only a minute or so. Trans­fer to a small bowl, then thin with a lit­tle wa­ter and sea­son with salt and pep­per.

Potato salad with ca­pers and an­chovies

Serve this zesty room-tem­per­a­ture potato salad on its own with crisp let­tuce or arugula leaves on the side, or along­side meats from the grill, a roasted chicken or any type of fish.

Makes: 4 to 6 serv­ings

To­tal time: 30 min­utes

Kosher salt and black pep­per

2 pounds medium yel­low-fleshed pota­toes, like Yukon Gold or Yel­low Finn 1⁄4 cup finely diced red onion 3 ta­ble­spoons red wine vine­gar 2 gar­lic cloves, finely minced or grated 1 ta­ble­spoon chopped an­chovy (about 4 fil­lets) 1 ta­ble­spoon small ca­pers (or large ca­pers, roughly chopped) 1 ta­ble­spoon Di­jon mus­tard

1⁄4 cup ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 1 tea­spoon thyme leaves 2 ta­ble­spoons chopped pars­ley 3 hard-boiled eggs (8- to 9-minute eggs), for gar­nish A hand­ful of arugula leaves, for gar­nish (op­tional)

1. Bring a large pot of well-salted wa­ter to a boil. Add the pota­toes and cook at a brisk sim­mer un­til the pota­toes are firm but eas­ily pierced with a skewer, about 20 min­utes. Re­move and let cool slightly.

2. While the pota­toes are cook­ing, make the vinai­grette: In a small bowl, put the red onion, vine­gar and a healthy pinch of salt. Stir to­gether, then let sit for 10 min­utes, so onion soft­ens and pick­les slightly. Add the gar­lic, an­chovy, ca­pers and mus­tard. Whisk in the olive oil. Sea­son to taste with salt and pep­per.

3. When the pota­toes are cool enough to han­dle, re­move the skins with a par­ing knife. Care­fully slice

1⁄4-inch thick, or slightly thicker. Put the slices in a wide, low bowl and sea­son lightly with salt. Pour the vinai­grette over. Us­ing your hands, gen­tly coat the potato slices with the vinai­grette, tak­ing care not to break them. Set aside at room tem­per­a­ture to let the salad ab­sorb the dress­ing.

4. Just be­fore serv­ing, add thyme leaves and pars­ley, and gen­tly toss the potato slices again. (Some of the vinai­grette will have set­tled to the bot­tom of the bowl.) Gar­nish with halved or quar­tered hard-cooked egg and arugula leaves, if us­ing.

AN­DREW SCRIVANI/ THE NEW YORK TIMES

AN­DREW SCRIVANI/THE NEW YORK TIMES

For the potato salad with ca­pers and an­chovies, the key is to dress the potato slices care­fully with your hands.

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