May 9, 2018

Dear friends,

Small, red new potatoes taste so earthy and sweet at this time of year that I buy them exclusively for a couple of months. I’ll segue into California long whites when they hit the market in June, and then play the field with whatever kind of potato looks freshest for the rest of the summer. For now, though, red potatoes are my favorite.

At cookouts I have roasted them in foil and smashed, marinated and grilled them a la Roger Thomas, but gave up finding any other way to cook red potatoes — or any potatoes — outdoors. Then my friend, Michele Sandridge, served some really great, super-easy mustard potatoes at a gathering. She roasted them in the oven, but I immediately realized they could be skewered and grilled over coals.

The tangy flavor belies their simplicity. The recipe (from a Barefoot Contessa cookbook) calls for cutting the potatoes into large chunks and tossing them with chunks of onion and olive oil, whole-grain mustard, salt and pepper. They are spread on a sheet pan and baked until tender. Really, you won’t believe how good these simple potatoes are.

For my next cookout I plan to slather the potato and onion chunks with the mustard-oil mixture, thread the chunks on skewers and grill them over a wood fire. Smoke can only enhance an already delicious side dish.

Fellow fire-lovers should follow my lead while others can bake the potatoes in the oven, as Ina Garten intended. Either way, I think they will be a winner.

MUSTARD POTATOES

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2 1/2 lbs. small red potatoes
2 yellow onions
3 tbsp. good olive oil
2 tbsp. whole-grain mustard
Kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters, depending on their size, and place on a sheet pan. Remove the ends of the onions and peel them and cut them in half. Slice them crosswise into inch-thick slices to make half-rounds. Toss the onions and potatoes together on the sheet pan. Add the olive oil, mustard, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper and toss together.

Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the potatoes are lightly browned outside and tender inside. Toss the potatoes from time to time with a metal spatula so they brown evenly. Serve hot, sprinkled with the chopped parsley and little salt. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “The Contessa at Home” by Ina Garten.

HELP U COOK

Although my recipe this week is made with red potatoes, I mention California long whites in my introduction. Potato buffs (yes, there is such a thing) are no doubt already familiar with this variety, and as a buff myself, I like to spread the word.

California long whites, technically the White Rose hybrid, are among my favorite potatoes. You can recognize the potato by the tissue-paper-thin skin (light brown) and the tiny, barely dimpled eyes. The flesh is waxy and holds its shape when cooked, which makes it a good choice for potato salad and scalloped potatoes. I just like the thin skin and the flavor.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Eggs scrambled in butter with feta cheese and avocado; mojo-marinated grilled chicken skewers, potatoes roasted in a campfire.

What I ate in restaurants/ at a friend’s house last week:
Black and blue burger (mushrooms, blue cheese, grilled onions) and grilled asparagus at Wolf Creek Tavern in Norton; tomato soup and half of a steak and arugula sandwich at Panera in Montrose; baked chicken marsala and wilted spinach in portobello mushroom caps, crisp salad with homemade green goddess dressing, mustard roast potatoes at my friend Michele’s house; Spanish omelet and melon at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; edamame, a creamy baked mussel, a Jane roll and an Amy roll at Sushi Katsu in Akron; two chili dogs at the Hot Dog Shoppe in East Liverpool; a crisp lettuce and cucumber salad, meat loaf and a baked sweet potato at the Riverside Roadhouse in Wellsville; half of a ham sub from Subway.

THE MAILBAG

From Lucinda:
I have a question about your microwave desserts. Since I often entertain just one or two and baking a traditional-size version of desserts is a recipe for overindulging, I’d love to offer these individual treats in more decorative vessels than my dollar-store plain, white coffee mugs.

My question is, then, have you found the shape and diameter of the mug affect the preparation process and outcome of your recipes? I have some lovely stoneware and ceramic mugs by artists who show at Ohio Mart and the Akron Arts Expo, but they tend to be wider, and some a bit shorter, than the ones I have been using.

Dear Lucinda:
Great question. Yes, the shape, size and material of the mug very much influences the timing. I tested all of my microwave mug dessert recipes in 12-ounce ceramic Fiesta ware mugs. You can use other sizes and shapes but you will have to gauge doneness by looks, which I have tried to describe for each recipe.

One reason the book has taken me so long to write is that I keep retesting recipes to take into account yet more variables. The wattage of the oven affects baking time, as does the physical size of the oven and even where on the turntable the mug is placed (never place it directly in the center, where the microwaves meet). I am amazed at microwave mug cookbook authors who tell readers to just bake the batter in any old mug, put it in any old microwave and bake it for an exact number of minutes. Really??

From Ms. O.:
Use your phone or camera to snap a pic of those solitary recipes that are keeping you from selling cookbooks!

From Michele B.:
The last time I got rid of some cookbooks, I took pictures of the few recipes I used and saved them with other recipes I have only in electronic form.

Dear O. and Michele:
Thanks for the suggestion, which had not occurred to me.

 

 

 

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One thought on “May 9, 2018

  1. I am fortunate to get access to new cookbooks from the library (my wonderful friend works there). I read them cover to cover and use my phone camera to snap photos of the recipes that sound good. I also look the recipe up online and bookmark it to Memo on my phone. Easy peasy!

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