Savoring Spuds: the best potato recipes

Savoring Spuds: the best potato recipes

Lumpy, bumpy, often covered with dirt, the lowly potato seems wretchedly unsophisticated in the produce aisle. Compared to more elegant offerings–alluring stalks of asparagus, the slender and elegant leaves of a Belgian endive, the graceful curves of a lush, glossy eggplant–potatoes are downright homely. But hailing from deep within the earth, they’re nurturing and reliable in a way other vegetables of a more frivolous nature could never hope to be.

The varieties number in the dozens, from exotic cultivars like Magic Molly and Caribe to the more commonplace red potatoes and Yukon gold, but all are high in antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium, with a decent amount of fiber. Blue varieties also contain anthocyanins, the same antioxidants in blueberries. And though sweet potatoes are only distant cousins, they have the same qualities of grounding and comforting, and they’re rich in carotenes and fiber.

Like most things understated, potatoes need only a bit of coaxing to bring out their charms. Mash them with butter and sea salt to enjoy their subtly sweet creaminess, rub them with oil and roast them to develop a rich caramelized crust with a tender center, or marry them with vegetables and spices that highlight their earthy warmth. Suddenly, the potato can be downright sophisticated.

Red Potato, Spinach and Mushroom Hash with Poached Eggs
Serves 4

Swap finely chopped kale for the spinach, increase the garlic and add a minced chipotle pepper before roasting, for a more robust dish. You can also skip the poached eggs and serve these with most any meal; they’re excellent as a side dish with roast chicken.

3 large red potatoes, cut in a medium dice
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Dash cayenne
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, chopped small
8 cups baby spinach, chopped small
4 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped chives

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Add potatoes and boil until just beginning to get tender, 7 to 10 minutes.  Drain well and spread onto a baking sheet; let cool. Toss with pepper, salt, oregano, cumin, cayenne, garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add mushrooms and onions, and toss to mix. Spread on baking sheet again, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until potatoes are crispy.

3. When the potatoes are almost done, remove from oven and add chopped spinach. Return to oven to continue cooking. In a large saute pan, bring 4 inches of water and 1 tablespoon vinegar or 2 teaspoons sea salt to a low simmer. Crack one egg into a cup and gently lower the egg into the water.  Repeat with remaining eggs, being careful not to crowd pan, and poach at a low simmer until just set, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

4. To serve, divide potato and spinach mixture between four plates. Top each with a poached egg.  Garnish with chives, and serve immediately.

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup with Adobo Cream
Serves 4 to 6

Peeling the potatoes makes the finished soup velvety and smooth, but it’s not necessary; leave them on, if you’d prefer. You can vary the spices considerably in this recipe, to make it subtly smoky-hot or fiery. Serve it with warm corn tortillas and slices of avocado, if they’re available in your area.

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small canned chipotle pepper, seeded and chopped
6 to 7 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1 to 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Combine sweet potatoes, onions and garlic on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and toss to mix. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender.

3. In a large, heavy pot, combine roasted vegetables, chipotle pepper and 6 cups of the stock; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are very soft.  While soup is cooking, combine sour cream and adobo sauce in a small bowl and mix to blend.

4. Purée soup in batches in a food processor, adding more stock as needed. Return soup to pot and warm through, if necessary. To serve, divide soup between four individual bowls. Sprinkle with cilantro and top with adobo-sour cream mixture. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower-Potato Mash with Arugula and Shallots
Serves 4 to 6

Cauliflower adds a subtle nuttiness and lightness to the earthy, dense potato; you can also add turnips for more sweetness and flavor. You can peel the potatoes for a more finished-looking end result, but it’s not necessary; I personally like leaving the skins on, for added nutrition and a more rustic look. Cooking the vegetables in stock adds volumes of flavor, but you can just as easily use water. You can also make this a vegan offering; just swap almond milk for the cow’s milk, or add additional stock to get the texture you want.

1/2 pound yukon gold potatoes
1 small head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
Vegetable stock
2  tablespoons  olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup arugula, finely chopped
1/4 cup half-and-half or milk
Hazelnut oil (optional)

1. Chop potatoes; core cauliflower and cut into florets. In a large soup pot, combine potatoes, cauliflower and stock to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain vegetables, reserving stock, and set both aside.

2. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and cook shallots and garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add potatoes and  cauliflower, and stir to mix with shallots and garlic, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in arugula. Add 1/4 cup half-and-half,  milk or reserved stock as needed to make the mixture creamy, and season with sea salt and pepper.

3. To serve, divide between individual bowls. Float a spoonful of hazelnut oil, if using, on top of each serving, and serve immediately.