Saturday, July 17, 2010

Salty Potatoes

Boil the potatoes. It's a very easy step, common to many recipes. Mashed potatoes, home fries, gnocchi. They all can involve boiling. But what if you just boil the potatoes? That's it. No other preparation involved. Sounds pretty bland and boring, right? Sounds like a Depression-era meal like lettuce soup. Believe it or not, you can make a delicious side dish or even an appetizer by simply boiling potatoes.

Potatoes in Saline

The preparation for this dish is so simple, I won't even bother typing it into proper recipe format. Start with some potatoes (obviously). I used Yukon Golds because I feel they have a sweeter, more interesting taste than some of the other varieties. You can use as many or as few as you want, though smaller potatoes work better for this than the larger ones. I ended up with about 4 pounds worth of different sizes. Put the potatoes in a large, heavy pot (the wider the bottom the better). Fill the pot with water to just cover the potatoes. Place the pot on the stove. To this, pour in enough salt so that the water starts to look murky (between 1 and 2.5 cups). Bring the salt water to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are tender. You can remove smaller potatoes ahead of larger ones if they finish cooking first. Drain the potatoes in a colander.

Salty Potatoes

As the potatoes dry, some of the salt from the water crystallizes on the outside, giving them a very thin, dusty-looking crust. Melt some butter in a saucepan or in the microwave as a sauce for dipping and you are good to go. It is easy to eat thees potatoes as a side, but you could easily serve them as a finger food at a barbecue or tapas party.

This simple preparation allows the potatoes to stand as the feature. Very often, potatoes act as a medium for other flavors like sour cream and chives, garlic, and spices. Allowing the salt to form a second skin on the outside of these tubers prevents them from being bland. Then you can taste the subtle potato flavors. You can easily dress this up a bit more by changing out the dipping sauce, perhaps by adding smoked paprika to the butter or using a buttermilk-ranch dressing, pesto, or homemade ketchup. But don't try to overwhelm these humble spuds. They do a lot of work for us on a daily basis, so let them have their time to shine.

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