CSA Veggie of the Week: Potato
Photo: Scott Bauer/ARS Photo Library
Potatoes can be whipped and mashed and shredded and roasted, fried and pancaked and thin-sliced and toasted. There are sweet ones and round ones and some shaped like fingers. And no matter the prep work, few leftovers linger.
That’s because potatoes are the #1 crop in the U.S., accounting for something like 15 percent of farm sale receipts, according to the USDA. And as we fall headfirst into autumn, the crisp air and turning leaves signal potato season for many. (Ninety percent of this tuber’s production happens during this time of year.)
For the third CSA pick-up in a row, we received a bag-full of potatoes, the perfect excuse to try out some new recipes and fall back on some oldies but goodies. Like what has become my all-time favorite option for roasting potatoes, from the November-December 2009 Cook’s Illustrated (reprinted below and made free for Audubon readers here through the end of September). These potatoes take some commitment—don’t expect to whip them up on a time-crunched weeknight—but when you have an hour or so, they’re totally worth it, crispy on the outside, smooth on the inside, and altogether delectable.
Crisp Roasted Potatoes
2. Place potatoes and 1T salt in Dutch oven; add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat and gently simmer until exteriors of potatoes have softened but centers offer resistance when pierced with paring knife, about 5 minutes. Drain potatoes well and transfer to large bowl.
3. Drizzle with 2T oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt; using rubber spatula, toss to combine. Drizzle with another 2T oil and 1/2 tsp salt; continue to toss until exteriors of potato slices are coated with starchy paste, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Working quickly, remove baking sheet from oven and drizzle remaining tablespoon oil over surface. Carefully transfer potatoes to baking sheet and spread into even layer (skin-side up if end piece). Bake until bottoms of potatoes are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 25 minutes, rotating baking sheet after 10 minutes.
5. Remove baking sheet from oven and, using metal spatula and tongs, loosen potatoes from pan, carefully flipping each slice. Continue to roast until second side is golden and crisp, 10 to 20 minutes longer, rotating pan as needed to ensure potatoes brown evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
The key here is the parboiling, salting, and tossing in a bowl using mild force. Here’s why this works: Roughhousing with the potatoes increases their natural surface area, explains the Cook’s Illustrated article. “Browning or crisping can’t begin until the surface moisture evaporates. The parcooked, roughed-up slices—riddled with tiny dips and mounds—have more exposed surface area than the smooth raw slices and thus more escape routes for moisture.”
Another tasty way to use up spuds is to turn them into home fries. The recipe we enjoy in mine came from The New York Times back in 2010. It’s called Henrietta’s Hash Browns. (Doesn’t the name alone sound irresistible?) My husband made one alteration to the original, swapping in ghee—already clarified butter often used in South Asian cooking—for the unsalted version in the ingredient list. By the way, don’t be afraid of cast-iron. If you’ve got the pan, use it! The resulting potatoes make a great addition to any brunch.
And if you looking for something a bit more challenging, go for potato gnocchi. A few years ago, I took a pasta-making class that included Potato Gnocchi in Beef Ragu. Of course, under the chef’s tutelage, it came out impeccably, light and fluffy. Recreating that at home was another story. The process for this dish intimidated me, namely because it required an unfamiliar prep and a funky gadget. But since that class, my husband’s taken on the dish a couple times and it has yet to disappoint. Here’s a gnocchi recipe from Smitten Kitchen that looks a bit simpler than—but just as delicious as—the one from my class. It calls for a couple pounds of Russet potatoes and some flour, salt and an egg.
Finally, three other tater recipes to try: