Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cocktail Potatoes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I had every intention of doing something with blackberries this week before they disappear from the local scene. I really did. But you know how I feel about freshly dug potatoes. And despite the fact that I’ve already done a potato entry this season, yesterday I saw these tiny potatoes at a roadside stand. They had, according to the farmer, been grown by one of his neighbors and dug that morning. We cooking fiends all know the truth about the best-laid plans of mice and chefs. I bought them.
The variety of these potatoes are Red Pontiac, sometimes called Dakota Chief (Kennebecs were also on offer, equally small and new). They are an all-purpose early-season potato with the thin skins that I like, for either rubbing off with a towel or leaving on. Since they are pink—the skins can fade and so are not as rosy as a lot of red-skinned potatoes—I generally leave them on, but some does always come off when they are washed. And yes, despite my general aversion to washing versus wiping, I do wash most potatoes because they are, well, just too dirty even for me.
Much as I feel about corn, new potatoes deserve their own spot on the menu, as a showcase rather than a side. A great additional benefit is the ability to have them really hot, too, given the tendency of both potatoes and corn to end up rather cooler than one would like by the time all plates hit the table. When I locate these tiny taters my preference is to microwave them whole and serve them simply—olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs, sometimes a little sprinkled freshly grated parmesan—for an appetizer (whence my name for them, “cocktail potatoes.” Here is the simple way I do it:
Cocktail Potatoes

The skins of these potatoes burst as you bite into them, releasing the soft, sweet potato. They are delicious.
Any number of tiny new potatoesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
1 tea regular olive oil + ½ tea or more extra-virgin olive oil  
¼ cup water, to start
¼ tea kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Chopped chives, parsley, basil, or other herb for garnish; freshly grated parmesan if you like
Use a shallow au gratin pan, glass pie plate, or other rimmed dish large enough to hold the potatoes loosely. Put about ¼ cup of water and a teaspoon of ordinary olive oil into the pan with about ¼ tea salt; add the potatoes and toss briefly. Microwave on high for 5 minutes; check, and if the water has largely boiled away, add another scant ¼ cup. Cook until the potatoes can be pierced with a small skewer or the point of a sharp paring knife; this will take about 10-12 minutes, depending on the size and freshness of your potatoes and your microwave, for potatoes in the size range of 1-1 ½". When they are done, drain off any remaining water and toss with a small amount, perhaps ½ teaspoon or a little more, extra-virgin olive, and freshly ground pepper, additional salt if needed (they absorb the salt while cooking, so be cautious), and herbs and/or cheese of your choice. Do not over-dress them. Serve on toothpicks with drinks.
                                        OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1 comment:

anne simon said...

I am having a party tomorrow and was overcomplicating the appetizer as usual - now I know what I am serving!