Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Floor

My lasagna just made it in the oven, waving hello to the outgoing Pear and Hazelnut torte which, if it tastes as good as it smells, you will be hearing about soon enough. But that's not why I'm here today.

I'm here today humbled, slightly embarrassed, with my jaw dangling at floor-level. How could I have doubted something so simple as the potato?

To preface, I've never been that big of a fan. Mostly I like the sweet kind, sometimes I like the mashed kind, but whenever I eat potatoes, I feel like I'm eating the next step up from junk food. It's white, it's carby, and it never really seems worth it.

But...



Thanks to The Wednesday Chef, from now on things will be different.

Start with some potatoes, a few herbs, and plenty of salt and oil. Roast them. Oh yeah, roast some nuts too. While the potatoes cook, blend a fantastically nuanced sauce of ancho chilies, hazelnuts and almonds, some garlic, and handful of parsely - even tomatoes! It comes together wonderfully, and then sits at the side of the frying pan while you fry up your already cooked potatoes until there is a nice crunchy crust. Roasted garlic cloves get tossed in, then it's all mixed with that wonderful sauce.

It may not be the prettiest dish. In fact, right before I was serving it, I thought to myself oh no, a pile of brown mushy stuff. And then we all three took a forkfull, and no one said anything. There was a sigh or two, and then a quiet, wow.

It was far from mushy. It was far from plain jane brown. Some kind of magic happened between that frying pan and those ancho chilies, and we liked it. Every bite was polished off, and I ate my side salad with a little sadness, wishing I had made more potatoes.

Yes, it was complex. There were a lot of steps. As I was making it, I didn't understand where the fried bread would come in (remember how I never read recipes?). But it all came together, and it was worth the dirty roasting pans.



Romesco Potatoes
adapted from The Wednesday Chef

I served this as a main dish for three, but it would also be great next to a grilled meaty something.

3 large, fresh, ancho chilies

2 tbsp raw hazelnuts

2 tbsp raw almonds

2 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes

1 1/2 cups olive oil (yes, that much!)

7 whole unpeeled garlic cloves

a few bay leaves

a handful of thyme sprigs, plus 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

One 1 inch slice country-style bread

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

a good squeeze fresh lemon juice


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread nuts on a baking sheet. Place chilies on a separate baking sheet. Roast them both ten minutes, shaking the nuts and turning the chilies halfway through. Remove from oven and raise temperature to 400 degrees.

2) On a roasting pan, toss potatoes with unpeeled garlic cloves, bay, thyme sprigs, 2 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tsp salt. Cover tightly with tin foil and roast 50 minutes until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

3) Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, and fry bread till both sides are golden. Set aside.

4) Remove stems and deseed chilies. Chop them coarsely. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in same pan used to fry bread. Add chili. Sauté one minute. Add tomato paste and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir till heated through, remove from heat.

5) With your hands, break bread into food processor. Add nuts and chopped garlic clove. Pulse to combine. Add chili-tomato mixture and pulse to combine. With the food processor on low, slowly pour in one cup olive oil, and blend until you have a smooth puree. Add 1 tbsp parsley and lemon. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

6) When the potatoes are cooked and cool enough to handle, crumble them into chunky pieces in your hands or smash them with the back of a spatula. Squeeze the garlic from its skins and set aside. Add remaining two tbsps olive oil to the large frying pan, and bring to a high heat. Add the potatoes. They need plenty of room to get crispy, so if they feel crowded work in batches. Sprinkle potatoes with thyme, salt and pepper. Fry until crispy, 6-8 minutes, then stir/flip them to cook the other side.

7) When potatoes are all browned and crispy, add them all the the pan with reserved roasted garlic, reserved romesco sauce, and remaining parsley. Serve.

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