From Chris Halpin
Potatoes are a year-round staple for much of the world. They’re versatile and comforting. They store well, and in some cases, the older and more wrinkly they become, the better they are for things such as french fries. For me, the most delicious time of year to eat potatoes is in the summer, when they’re fresh and local.
There are so many varieties of potatoes available to us in our markets and stores that the mind boggles. These are some rules of thumb to navigate the potato landscape. Choose a “dry” or mealy potato, such as a russet or King Edward, for mashing, baking or making gnocchi. Their light, fluffy texture readily absorbs ingredients. Conversely, choose a waxy-fleshed potato, like Yukon Gold, Yellow Finn, red skin or fingerling, for home fries, potato salad, roasting, or steaming, as they have a lovely firm texture and will not fall apart. Here are some ideas to help make your summer more sumptuous and simple.
1. Boiling and Storing Potatoes
When you boil potatoes in their skins they will stay fresh for 7 to 10 days in the fridge, ready to go for any preparation. Put potatoes and cold water to cover them in a large pot. Salt the water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Cook the potatoes until a fork goes in about halfway before turning the heat off. Leave the potatoes in the water until it comes to room temperature. Allowing them to finish cooking slowly in the residual heat of the water imparts a finer texture to the flesh. Drain, dry, place in Ziplock bags and refrigerate for future use.
2. Potatoes and Onions Fried in Bacon Fat with Fennel Pollen
Fennel pollen is a favourite of mine. Find it in whole-food and specialty food stores. In a large pan over medium-high heat add 2 T. bacon fat and 4 diced pre-cooked potatoes. Make sure not to over-crowd the pan, stir from time to time, allowing the potatoes to become crispy, about 5 minutes. When the potatoes have started to brown, add 1 diced onion, along with salt and pepper to taste and sauté until the onions are soft, another 5 minutes. Add 1/2 t. ground coriander and 1/2 t. fennel pollen, adjust the salt and pepper and fry a minute or so longer before serving. Serves 4.
3. Garlic, Fresh Thyme, Cream Whipped Potatoes
In a pot over medium heat, add 1/2 c. whipping cream, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, a sprig of fresh thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Allow this to simmer for 3 minutes or so before removing the thyme sprig. Peel 4 pre-cooked potatoes and grate them. When the cream is ready, add the potatoes and whip the cream and potatoes until smooth and fluffy. Adjust the seasoning. Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir one last time before serving. Serves 4.
4. Curried Potato Salad
In a large bowl, put 4 pre-cooked potatoes, peeled and diced, 1 apple cored and diced, 6 radishes, thinly sliced, 2 T. minced red onion, 2 T. mayonnaise, 2 T. yogurt, 1 T. apple cider vinegar, 1 T. curry powder, 1/2 t. sugar, salt to taste. Mix well and garnish with chopped cilantro. Try serving this with barbecued lamb, sausages or chicken. Serves 4.
5. Kale and Potato Hash
With 1 bunch of kale, remove the stems and roughly chop, place in a large bowl, pour a kettle of boiling water over and let stand for about a minute before draining and blotting dry. Set aside for later. Slice the white part of 2 leeks, then rinse and dry the slices. Peel 4 pre-cooked potatoes and grate them. In a pan over medium-high heat, melt 3 T. butter, then add 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1 T. grainy mustard, salt and pepper to taste, add the leeks and sauté until wilted. Add the kale and sauté a minute more, then add the potatoes and stir until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Fry this until the potatoes are brown and crusty, then serve. This is a delight with roast pork. Serves 4.
6. Steamed New Potato with Gremolata
To make the gremolata, finely mince all together a handful of fresh Italian parsley, 2 crushed garlic cloves and the zest of 1 lemon. Steam 1 lb. of any type of new potatoes, drain and place in a bowl. Roughly halve or quarter the potatoes, drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper and mix until well coated. Generously sprinkle with the gremolata. This is excellent with fish. Serves 4.
7. Oven Baked Potato Latkes with Smoked Salmon and Chive Mascarpone
Peel and grate 4 waxy-fleshed potatoes, and place the grated potato in a bowl, then cover it with cold water. With your hands, move the potato around until the water becomes cloudy, drain and repeat until the water is clear, about three times. This will prevent the latkes from discolouring. Drain the potato, squeeze out the excess water, place in a dry bowl and add 1 t. salt, 4 T. all purpose flour or rice flour. Mix until the mixture starts to clump together. On a parchment lined baking sheet, arrange little mounds of shredded potato, about 2-inches around and 1-inch high. Gently pat the mounds to slightly flatten, brush with canola oil and bake in a pre-heated 375ºF. oven until golden and crispy, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. In a bowl, mix together 1/4 c. mascarpone, 1 T. minced chives, 1 t. salt, 1/2 t. sugar and 1/2 t. white pepper. Smear each latke with the cheese mixture, arrange on a tray and ribbon the smoked salmon on top. Garnish with dill. Makes 24 latkes.
8. Roasted Rainbow Creamer Potatoes with Summer Herbs
Cut in half 1 lb. uncooked small new
potatoes and toss them in olive oil. Arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, skin-side down, and place in a pre-heated 375ºF. oven. Meanwhile, de-stem 1 sprig each of rosemary, sage and oregano, put the herbs on top of each other on a chopping board and mince to a medium texture. When the potatoes start looking brown, after about 30 minutes, remove from the oven. Squeeze 1 lemon over them along with the herbs and salt and pepper to taste and toss to evenly coat. Again, turn all the potatoes skin-side down and return to the oven to finish roasting, about 5 minutes more. Serves 4.