Nov 19, 2012

One Potato, Two Potato

 Last week we extolled the virtues of the simple potato. The truth is most folks never met a potato they didn’t like. Potatoes are the mainstay of many meals and celebrations. Because of the potatoes popularity and easy availability throughout the world there have been millions of recipes dreamed up using potatoes. Every cuisine has its own, many of which have become internationally famous like “bangers and mash” (sausage and mashed potatoes) or poutine (French fries served with gravy and cheese). Of course, you’re all familiar with potatonik, rakot krumpli and hash browns, but have you ever heard of rumblethumps, colcannon or trinxat?
If the potato dishes in your recipe box have become a little overused, you’ll want to try these. Don’t let their names scare you off.

Meaning "poor-house bread,” boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake. There are many versions but all contain finely grated, raw potatoes as well as mashed cooked potatoes. Serve these pancakes for breakfast with butter and honey.

1 medium russet potato, raw, finely grated
1 medium russet potato, cooked and mashed
dash kosher salt
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 to 1 1/4 cups milk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons canola oil

Combine grated and mashed potatoes. Add salt and flour. Beat egg and add to mixture with enough milk to make a thick batter that will drop from a spoon.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Drop batter into the hot oil using a large spoon. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Serves 6 to 8.

This is a French dish of sliced pan-fried potatoes and thinly sliced onions, sautéed in butter with parsley. You can use canola oil instead, if you want to keep them pareve.

3 Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and thickly sliced
1 cup chopped onion, 1 medium
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
chopped fresh parsley
Cook potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water until just tender enough to pierce with a knife. Drain and cool slightly.
In a large heavy skillet, heat butter over low heat; add onions and sauté until golden brown. Add cooked sliced potatoes to the browned onions. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serves 6.

Here is another potato dish of French origin. A “gratin” refers to any dish with a browned top. This baked potato dish gets its warm golden crust from a generous portion of cheese.

2 pounds Russet potatoes
1 clove garlic, cut in half
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Swiss cheese
1 cup boiling milk or heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel the potatoes and slice them 1/8 inch thick. Place in cold water until needed.
Slice the garlic clove and rub a 9”x13” oven-to-table dish baking dish with cut garlic. Smear the dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
Drain the potatoes and dry them in a towel. Spread half of them in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle half the salt, pepper, cheese, and butter over the potato slices. Arrange the remaining potatoes over the first layer and season. Spread on the rest of the cheese and the butter over it. Pour on the boiling milk.
Place the baking dish in preheated oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, the milk is absorbed, and the top is a golden brown.

Gnocchi (shlishkes)
This is a favorite of many cuisines, be it Italian, Jewish or otherwise!

 2 pounds whole baking (Russet) potatoes
2 beaten egg yolks
1 1/2 cups flour
Pinch of salt

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Drain and cool slightly. Peel potatoes and mash with a potato masher or a ricer.
 Add the flour, egg and a pinch of salt. Mix by hand until you have a nice pliable ball of dough. Do not over-mix.
Prepare a work area and dust it with flour. Take the dough, a piece at a time, and roll it out gently with your hands until you have rolls about 3/4 inches in diameter. It’s important to roll gently with your fingertips while using the lightest pressure to stretch the rope outwards.
Cut the ropes of dough into pieces about one inch long. Using either the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press against each piece of the dough and roll it slightly to form an indentation. As the gnocchi are made, place them on baking pan, lightly dusted with flour or lined with parchment paper. At this point you can freeze the gnocchi ahead of time. Freeze them first in one layer on a tray, then once frozen you can put them into a freezer bag for more easy storage. To cook, just put the frozen gnocchi into the simmering water for the next step.
Bring at least 4 quarts of salted water to a boil in a wide saucepan. Gently drop the gnocchi, a few at a time, into the water. As soon as they rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon, draining well. Arrange on a serving dish or bowl. Continue cooking the gnocchi in the same manner.
As soon as all the gnocchi are ready, serve with pasta sauce or toasted bread crumbs.

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