Potato Glam: Favorite Spuds for St. Patrick’s Day

I remember the potatoes. Two weeks spent on the Emerald Isle in my twenties left me with a lasting impression of Irish potato-centric meals. Potatoes at breakfast, yes, and again at noon. Dinner, too.

I’m not complaining,  I love potatoes. A lot of people must agree with me because the National Potato Council reports that potatoes are the second most consumed food in the United States. An average American eats, they say, 135 pounds of potatoes a year.

One of my favorites is smash-roast spuds. Use small red potatoes, or even better, Melissa’s Baby Dutch Yellow potatoes (those little round, yellowish-white skinned beauties).

The cook-flatten-roast technique creates creamy mashed potato interiors and crackly-crisp crusts (without deep frying).

OK, I know that you usually toss St. Patrick’s Day taters into the bubbling corned beef broth to cook while the meat turns tender. The potatoes play a secondary role, with the brined beef hogging the limelight.

How about these Fanned Potatoes? The peeled-roasted Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes open like fancy fans in the oven.  Fresh bay leaves nuzzle into the parallel cuts and give the potatoes a rich, earthy “herbality”.  Delicious.

To prevent the knife from cutting through the potato,  either place potato in the bowl of a large wooden spoon, or place a chopstick on either side of the potato!  Voila!

Roasted Smashed Potatoes
Yield: 6 servings
2 pounds small red potatoes
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground pepper
1. Adjust oven racks to top and bottom positions and heat oven to 500 degrees. Arrange potatoes on rimmed baking sheet, pour 3/4 cup water onto baking sheet, and wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Cook on bottom rack until paring knife or skewer slips in and out of potatoes easily (poke through foil to test), 25 to 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook 10 minutes. If any water remains on baking sheet, blot dry with paper towel.
2. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over potatoes and roll to coat. Space potatoes evenly on baking sheet and place a second baking sheet on top; press down firmly on baking sheet, flattening potatoes until 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with thyme, season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Roast potatoes on top rack to 15 minutes, then transfer potatoes to bottom rack and continue to roast until well browned, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information (per serving): 140 calories, 40 percent of calories from fat, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 14 g carbohydrates, 1.5 g protein, 220 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
Source: “Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook” from the editors at America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $40)

Fanned Potatoes
Yield: 12 whole potato servings, or 24 half potato servings
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
5 pounds russet (baking) potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes, about 12 medium-sized, peeled, rinsed
Approximately 20 small fresh bay leaves
About 3/4 cup sodium-reduced chicken broth or vegetable broth
Seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s
Coarse salt (kosher or sea), to taste
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 385 degrees. In a large skillet or heavy bottomed flameproof roasting pan, heat butter and olive oil on medium-high heat. When butter melts, add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
2. Make crosswise slices in potatoes about 1/8 inches apart, but don’t cut all the way through. There are two approaches that work well. Either place potato in the well of a large wooden spoon and make the cuts (the sides of the spoon’s bowl will prevent you from cutting all the way through). OR, on the cutting board, place a chopstick on either side of the potato (the height of the chopstick will prevent you from cutting all the way through). Insert one or two bay leaves in each sliced potato.
3. Pour broth in skillet or roasting pan (use caution it may splatter). Add potatoes in a single layer, placing them so the sliced side is up. Using a large spoon, ladle broth mixture over the tops of potatoes. Lightly season with seasoned salt (more salt will be added later, this is primarily for color). Place in preheated oven and cook until potatoes are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
4. Remove from oven (if using skillet, remember that the handle is very hot). Move oven rack to position about 8 inches from broiler element. Turn oven to broil. Spoon pan juices over potatoes and season with coarse salt. Broil potatoes until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn on oven light and watch carefully because they can burn easily.
Nutrition information (per serving): 245 calories, 44 percent of calories from fat, 12 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 22 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 400 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

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