May it Please the Palate-Potato Porn

  By Nick Roumel

With trembling hands, I opened the January 6 NY Times Magazine to page 42. There they were—a dozen glossy photos, all of provocatively posed potatoes - in golden glory. 

Potatoes are my favorite food, hands down. Cakes and cookies? Nice. Hamburgers and pizza? Sure, once in a while. Moo goo gai pan? It’s OK. But the noble spud—now there’s some seriously good “wow chow.”

If I were going to be wrongly executed for a crime I did not commit, I would order French fries as my last meal. Garlic fries, Cajun fries, chili fries … Yessiree, I’m gonna make those electric volts work hard for the money.

But I’m also down with more elegant potato fare. As food journalist Mark Bittman noted in the aforementioned NY Times Magazine article, our most-grown and most-eaten vegetable has been cultivated for about 10,000 years - and its newest variety, the Yukon Gold, is most versatile for boiling or baking.

Bittman offers a dozen recipes; three each are baked, braised, mashed, and fried. They range in simplicity from “lean but good” mashed potatoes, to labor intensive but addictive tater tots. I’m going to tease you with three. 

All the recipes are based on two pounds of potatoes (four medium to large spuds). You can leave the skins on and scrub the spuds, or peel them, at your discretion.

Potatoes Anna

This classic presentation is sliced and baked. Heat oven to 400. Peel and thinly slice all-purpose potatoes such as Yukon Gold. (You may use a food processor or mandoline.) Toss with 3 TBS melted butter or oil and neatly layer in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet. Bake for 30 minutes; slide the cake out onto a plate, cover with another plate, invert it and slide it back into the skillet, with a little more butter or oil if necessary. Continue cooking until potatoes are done and top is browned, 20-25 minutes; cut into wedges.

Mashed Potatoes (with Greens)

Russetlike varieties are best for mashed potatoes. Boil until soft. While they boil, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet with 1 TBS minced garlic and a sprig of rosemary or thyme. When the garlic is colored (not brown), add the drained potatoes to the olive oil and mash, adding a bit more oil if you like; skip the cream. If desired, also mash in 1 lb. cooked, chopped dandelion, spinach, or other bitter greens. Garnish with buttered breadcrumbs.

Rösti

For this Swiss favorite, grate potatoes; squeeze out excess liquid. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium heat and add potatoes; shape into a disc. Cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. Slide cake onto a plate, cover with another plate and invert. Add more butter to the pan and slide cake back in. Continue cooking until browned all over, turning again if necessary. Garnish: Parsley.

(For all the recipes and sexy illustrations, go to: http://markbittman.com/yukon-gold-standard)

Despite their wicked deliciousness, potatoes are unfairly maligned as a poor nutrition choice. But a simple potato, in all its lovely nakedness, is a mere 110 calories—with zero fat. According to the U.S. Potato Board (which I’m sure is completely unbiased), it’s also an excellent source of potassium, vitamins C and B6, fiber, and iron. Dress it up wisely, and you’ve also got a most delicious treat on your hands.

And please, leave the ketchup in the ‘frig—unless, of course, you decide to tackle those tater tots!

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleaset hepalate.blogspot.com/.

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