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CHEF'S CORNER

 
Perfect Potatoes
By: Deirdre Cooper

 

 

In this month of our celebration of Irish heritage, it seems appropriate to highlight what is often associated with Irish cuisine, the potato. Interestingly, potatoes were discovered by the Spanish during their conquest of Peru over 500 years ago. It was an entirely new concept to not grow a food from seed, but from the potato itself, sort of a clone. The food was totally foreign to them and they were fascinated by the quantity grown in the cool mountains, fertilized from the droppings of birds. The Spanish brought potatoes back to Europe and a whole new food source was born.
 
At the height of their cultivation of potatoes around 1845, Irish farmers planed over 2 million acres with the tuber. That year, within 2 months of planting, a blight that had quickly spread all over Europe, came to Ireland with a vengeance and wiped out over three quarters of the crop. The blight did not wind down until 1852 by which time over a million Irish people died in one of the deadliest famines in history.
 
Today, potatoes are the world's fourth largest crop after rice, wheat and corn. Contrary to popular belief, the potato itself is not fattening. It is the added goodies of butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon, etc. that add the calories. Otherwise, it is an excellent, healthy, low calorie, high fiber vegetable. They are rich in vitamin C, B6, potassium, manganese and fiber. Potatoes join tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in the family of plants known as nightshade.
 
Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food and are available year round with many different varieties to choose, from russets, all purpose whites, Yukon gold, colorful new potatoes and fingerlings to name a few. I hope you will try and enjoy some of the recipe ideas which follow.
 
Garlic Roasted Potatoes
 


 

3 lbs small red or white potatoes or russets cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 TSP kosher salt and 1 TSP ground pepper
2 TSP minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
2 TBSP minced fresh parsley
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
 
Cut the small potatoes in half or the large potatoes into thin wedges. Toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic until well coated. Transfer potatoes to a sheet pan and spread out in one layer. Roast for approx 1 hour or until browned and crisp. Move around once or twice during cooking to ensure even browning. When done, toss with parsley, adjust seasoning and enjoy.
 
Whipped Potatoes with Horseradish
 


 

Here is a different take on the ever-popular mashed potato.
 
2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted, divided, plus 1 stick cut into 1 inch cubes, room temperature
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
4 oz cream cheese cut into 1 inch cubes, room temperature
2 TBSP prepared horseradish, 2/3 cup whole milk, slightly warmed
1 bunch scallions, minced (approx 2/3 cup)
Hungarian Sweet Paprika
 
Brush an 8x8x2 or other 6 cup baking dish with 1 TBSP melted butter. Place potatoes in large pot and add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add large pinch of salt, bring to a boil, then reduce to med-low. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
 
Drain potatoes, return to pot. Shake and stir with wood spoon over very low heat until dry. Mash coarsely with potato masher. Using a hand mixer, beat ½ cup butter into potatoes a few pieces at a time until blended. Beat in cream cheese and horseradish. Gradually add milk, beating until potatoes are light and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
 
Stir in scallions and put potatoes into a prepared dish. Drizzle with remaining melted butter and sprinkle with paprika. Baked uncovered in 350 oven until heated through and top is golden, about 40 minutes.
 
Potato Pot Pie
 


 

This is a gorgeous special occasion dish! Serves about 8.
 
1 1/2 lbs waxy potatoes, such as new potatoes
2 cups heavy (or whipping) cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 TBSP finely chopped garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large egg
1 TBSP cold water
1 package (17 1/4 oz, 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
 
Peel and slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch thick rounds. Combine the potatoes, cream, rosemary, garlic and pepper in large sauté pan. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, but firm. Season with salt and let cool.
 
Preheat oven to 400. Stir the egg with water in a small bowl and set aside.
 
Roll out each puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Line a 1 1/2 quart gratin pan with 1 pastry sheet. Press the dough well along the pan sides and fill pan evenly with the potato mixtures. Brush the dough edges of pastry with the egg wash. Cover the filling with second sheet of pastry and press to seal the rim. Trim excess pastry and crimp the edges. Cut a small hole in the middle to vent steam. You may prepare to this point and refrigerate until ready to bake.
 
Brush the pastry top with egg wash and place the pie on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve hot.
 
 

Deirdre is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys traveling, gardening, and needless to say works wonders in the kitchen. Deirdre, a native New Yorker, now resides in Ambler with her husband John, and can often be found entertaining family and friends. Enjoy!
 
 
 
 

2017
 
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Current Recipe
 
 
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