April 8, 2014 - Radio Kitchen - Spring Potatoes
I'm unusually skeptical about the weather this year, and I wish I could feel more confident that spring truly has arrived. In many ways this is like the beginning of a new year for us, with all of the springtime produce now in the pipeline. And one thing I can't get off my mind are those lovely little tender white potatoes that we get this time of year.
These have a variety of names, but "new potatoes" is the most common, although they are well known as "creamers." Here are the characteristics: they are usually small with smooth, very thin skin, either white or red. A lot of the potato's sugars have not yet been converted to starch, so their texture, when cooked, is creamy and fine.
Making simple creamed potatoes is so simple, I couldn't actually find a recipe. But here it is: boil cut up potatoes in salted water until they are quite tender. Drain the potatoes, return them to the pan and swirl them around vigorously. The potatoes will naturally break up and create their own creamy sauce. Help it along with a touch of butter or cream, season with salt and pepper, and you're good to go.
The mashed olive oil version is a perfect vehicle for high quality varietal olive oil. You can use the medium sized new potatoes, skin on. Cut them in half before boiling, then cook them until fork tender. Place several on a plate, and use a potato masher to mash them up a little bit. Then simply drizzle your favorite extra virgin olive oil...I love the variety called Picual... hit it with you favorite salt and pepper.
Creamy new potatoes and green peas was one of my mother's favorite Springtime dishes. You start by making your creamers, but you also whip up a simple béchamel sauce to add in. Season the sauced potatoes (a touch of dill works nicely) and stir in some cooked peas. It's simple, delicious and perfect for a roast lamb.
New potatoes are superb for roasting. But here's a couple tips. First, you usually want to boil them until they are just tender. Be sure to add a tablespoon of mild vinegar to the water, which will help the cut up potatoes keep their sharp edges. Also, drain the boiled potatoes onto a clean cookie sheet and allow them to cool down and dry. This is important if you are planning on coating them with olive oil for roasting. Also, make sure your cookie sheet is well lubricated with oil, and be sure to give the potatoes a couple good shakes during the roasting process to keep them from sticking.
There are many variations on roasted new potatoes. Here's a few:
1. Straight up with salt and pepper.
2. With sprinkled parmesan cheese.
3. Al's Provence recipe, with quartered black calamata olives and rosemary.
4. Roast potatoes Provencal, with tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic and herbes de Provence.
5. Coated with Dijon Mustard
Finally, new potatoes are useful for appetizers. The trick is to halve them, boil them, then scoop them out to make a little bowl for your filling. Fillings that come to mind include: sour cream and caviar, bacon, minced spring onion and melted cheese.