Garlic mashed potatoes

My assigned dish for the Thanksgiving dinner that I always have with friends is garlic mashed potatoes…I love them, but don’t make mashed potatoes for one.  One of the reasons is that I want my mashed potatoes to be unctuous, with lots of butter and (at least) half-and-half–not something I should be adding to my diet often.

This year, I made my Thanksgiving garlic mashed potatoes as described inCook’s Country recipe for garlic mashed potatoes–it’s a one-pot method that produced a lovely result–with less effort that the way I had done them.  It’s always been my contention that I don’t want to cook potatoes for mashing in the jackets–I hate having to peel them while still hot, and I certainly don’t want to boil peeled potatoes in water–I want all that lovely starch to be available to absorb cream and butter–so I’ve always steamed them and then let them dry out just a bit before I start mashing.

This recipe took a different approach:  the potatoes were cooked with the minced garlic (after it was sautéed in butter) and then cooked in the half-and-half with a bit of water added.  Once tender the potatoes were mashed right in the pot, adding some more butter, and half-and-half.

I’ve looked at this recipe and wondering if this approach could be adapted to making mashed potatoes (decent ones) for one, or maybe two.  It would certainly be faster than baking a potato and then making mashed potatoes, since the potatoes are cut into 1/2-inch cubes before cooking and you do the mashing right in the same pot that you cooked them in–less clean-up to do, as well.

Adapting this recipe for one seemingly would involve just a ratio adjustment–but that will take a test run to see if it is so simple.  Since the original recipe called for four pounds of potatoes (designed to serve about 6 or so), it might take some tinkering, but sometimes mashed potatoes (like risotto) are necessary even when doing single-serving cooking.

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Red, white, and blue roasted potatoes

Happy Fourth of July to all!

mixed color potatoes in colander

I really was planning to do something special today–more smoked lamb and goat shanks–but I admit to turning to a total wuss, wimping out…as I looked at the weather forecast for the week.  Even though those are easy, it still requires some minding of the grill, and I just could not face it.  I resolved to have a quiet, cool Fourth of July–just me and the cat–indoors with the air conditioning…and I woke up this morning wishing I’d not been such a wuss.

Saved by friends!  An impromptu invitation to join them for grilled chicken this evening.  So–I’m having my quiet Fourth, but with friends and neighbors.

close-up of cut purple, pink/red, and yellow potatoes

Not to go empty-handed, I am making some patriotic roasted potatoes–red, white, and blue–Red Thumb, Russian Banana (okay, bit of fudging here), and Purple Majesty potatoes (new ones from the farm).  Since it’s HOT (my thermometer is reading 98°F now), I’ve decided that those roasted potatoes are going to turn into something that can be eaten at “room temperature”, that will be light and refreshing, and compliment the chicken.

I’m taking  newly dug tri-colored potatoes and scrubbing their delicate skins carefully, cutting as needed to have them equal sizes so that they cook at the same rate, tossing them with a little olive oil; then into a preheated pan and into a 350° F oven until they are tender.

cut and oiled potatoes on baking sheet

I’ve done what America’s Test Kitchen recommends and placed cut sides in contact with the baking sheet so that at least some of the potatoes will brown to give roasted flavor. Now for some complimentary and contrasting flavors to finish these. Since all these do taste a bit different, and for me one of the fun things about this is to be able to taste the individual potatoes and to compare them–think about comparing wines–I want light seasoning–nothing to overwhelm the potatoes themselves. The only seasoning at this point is kosher salt.

Since it’s hot outside (my thermometer is now reading 99.7°F ), I’m thinking light and cool flavors.  I don’t want “potato salad”–so vinegar is out, but I do need something “bright”–and light, and something cool.  Time to check out the herbs on the deck, and the crisper drawer.

lemon, tarragon, chives, mint, and chili peppers.

Chicken makes me think tarragon.  Cool makes me thing mint–hmm.  Let me smush a couple of leaves together and see how that smells.  Tarragon–warm, mint–cool.  Need some brightness to set off the earthiness of the potatoes–lemon zest, and maybe just a bit of lemon juice over the potatoes while they are still warm.  Seems a good start–but not quite there yet.  Needs a little “spice”–some very finely minced red chili pepper might just do it.

After the potatoes had been in the oven for 30 minutes, I used the tip of a paring knife to check doneness–not quite; and, not quite brown enough.  (I probably should have used the heavier half-pan baking sheet instead of this one–drat.) I kicked the oven temperature to 450°F for another 15 minutes and checked again.  Perfect!  Brown potatoes–so out of the oven, ready for the first seasoning.

roasted potatoes--browned edges of the red, yellow and purple  ones.While still hot, I tossed them with the zest of one lemon and most of the juice of the lemon–nice bright flavor to contrast with the brown and earthy potatoes.  After cooling a bit, I tossed in about a tablespoon each pretty finely chopped French tarragon and mint. That got the first taste of cool mint, followed by the warm flavor of French tarragon.  So far so good.

I let them stand for a bit and tasted again–the lemon flavor is there but not overwhelming–the juice has added just a bit of tartness, but not enough to taste like a “potato salad”. Now, I’m debating chives and chili pepper.  I taste the chili pepper–it’s not screaming hot–and I think that just an occasional bit of heat as you eat the potatoes would be nice.  I seeded and removed the ribs, and finely minced about 1/5 of the pepper and tossed that with the potatoes. (Still debating about the chives–I really don’t want them to taste like ersatz baked potatoes.)

seasoned IMG_6935After standing for a bit longer, I tasted again, and decided that chives are not what is needed here–I probably should just leave them alone!

So the final seasonings are the zest of one lemon, lemon juice, mint, tarragon, and just a touch of  red Serrano chili pepper, and a very light sprinkle of a good fruity, extra-virgin olive oil.  I hope that after standing a bit more (not to be refrigerated before we eat the at ambient temperature–or maybe a little less–thermometer now at 100.6°F ) there will be flavors of warm and cool herbs, the brightness of lemon (juice and zest), and an occasional burst of heat from the chili pepper.

Using the baking sheet so that the potatoes are spread out and don’t steam, and preheated does really help get browned roasted potatoes.  If they are too crowded, they will only “steam” and not brown–not really roasted.  The browning is, after all, the whole purpose of turning on the oven!

It’s not smoked lamb shanks, but it’s going to be a pleasant evening with friends–and I do think that something similar will return to go with those lamb shanks when they happen later–when the temperature does not turn me into a total wimp!

…and yes, I’ve done that final taste–yum!  No chives though.

roasted potatoes, with herbs and chili peppers in serving dish.

Leftovers? Possibly–it is a big dish of potatoes for three, but leftovers here are desirable.  Tomorrow they can become a roasted potato salad–perhaps with just a splash of balsamic vinegar, adding some fresh tomato, and cucumber, and, perhaps, some celery, radishes, crisp sweet onion or some freshly snipped chives.

Happy Fourth of July!  A son goût!  

Spanish potato omelette (Tortilla Española)

Another favorite egg dish (though I don’t make this as often as the basic omelette) is tortilla Española or Spanish potato omelette–this takes a bit more time than basic omelette, but it is serious comfort food.  Though most recipes that I’ve seen recommend serving it at room temperature (and I love it that way too), I like the first serving still warm.  I don’t mind having some of this around to eat as recommended, at room temperature, especially in hot weather.  I usually make the entire 4 servings of this.

This recipe is adapted from The food of Spain and Portugal: The Complete Iberian Cuisine by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz (p. 231) and allioli (p. 239).

Tortilla Española

Ingredients

  • 500 gm/1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced or thinly sliced (preferably waxy potato–red or Yukon gold).
  • 250 gm/8 ounces (about 3 medium) onions, finely chopped or sliced thin
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 250 ml/8 fluid ounces (1 cup) olive oil
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preparation

  • season the potatoes and onions with salt and pepper.
  • heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan (skillet), preferably nonstick.
  • cook the potatoes and onions covered over low heat until soft, but not browned; stir gently from time to time.
  • drain the potatoes and onions through a sieve, reserving the oil.
  • stir the eggs with a little salt and pepper
  • add the potato and onion mixture, mix gently and allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • wipe out the frying pan/skillet and add 4 tablespoons of the oil, and heat
  • add the egg, potato, and onion mixture and spread it evenly
  • cook over moderate heat shaking the pan occasionally to keep it from sticking.
  • when the omelette begins to brown underneath, put a plate over the skillet and invert the pan and slide the omelette onto the plate.
  • heat a little more oil and return the omelette to the pan with the browned side up.
  • cook it just long enough to brown the underside.
  • transfer to a warmed plate and serve hot or at room temperature.
As a garlic lover, I love to accompany the with allioli (garlic mayonnaise) so here is a recipe for that accompaniment:   
 

Allioli à la Catalana  (Garlic mayonnaise, Catalan-style)

Ingredients

Makes about 1 cup; will keep in the fridge for several days.  This is for serious garlic lovers–there is a less potent variation given in the book, as well as variations using egg yolks.

  • 1/2 large head of garlic, peeled and crushed.
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) lemon juice (or white wine vinegar)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) olive oil at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Preparation

  • put the crushed garlic into a small bowl (or a large mortar).
  • add the lemon juice or vinegar
  • stir to mix
  • gradually add the oil, stirring in the same direction until the oil is absorbed and the mixture has a mayonnaise-like consistency.
  • stir in salt to taste.

You don’t need to use expensive oil–the garlic flavor is very strong.  This can be made in a food processor or blender, but I think that it’s more trouble to clean either of those than to make it by hand.

If you don’t care to make the allioli from scratch, you can add crushed garlic to a good commercial mayonnaise, and adjust seasoning to taste with lemon juice (or vinegar).  When I do it this way I use Hellmann’s® mayonnaise–it is quicker, but not quite as good as making it from scratch.

More potato basics

For those of you wanting more information on potato varieties,  you might also want to check the article on “Potato Varieties”  from Cook’s Illustrated.