Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Two Quick and Simple Potato Side Dishes

My husband is a staunch "meat and potatoes" Midwesterner. I love my meat and potatoes too of course, though I am very happy with many dishes my husband won't touch. Potatoes, being a part of that wonderful duo, play a large part in our meals. My husband has most fond food memories of his Dad preparing potatoes in a pan to accompany burgers on a Saturday night. I never ate my father-in-law's potatoes, but judging from descriptions and demonstrations, I get the sense that he cut the potatoes in large slices and cooked them in fat of some kind with a lid on for part of the time at least and adding water to help them steam. My husband has prepared these in the past to show me how, and he would use the spatula, while turning browned sides upwards, to chop, chop away, so the potatoes end up as a sort of hash. As a matter of fact, his idea of hash is cutting up leftover meat and adding it to the cooked potatoes to heat through. No gravy, no anything at all to give flavor - except ketchup smothering the whole meal on his dish.
15-Minute Pan Potatoes

Over time, while I have tried to make his potatoes, I don't like to have to stand at the stove with thickly sliced potatoes, trying to get them cooked through. My method differs a bit in that I prefer to slice the potatoes quite thinly, and in smaller, quarter rounds, so they cook quickly and evenly. This also means I don't need to chop, chop away to get them smaller as they cook. My method takes about 15 minutes of cooking, total. He accepts my version gladly enough, so I see no reason to make something that takes up more time and attention. I would prefer to leave the skins on, but he will not tolerate potato skins, so, alas, they are skinless. Here is my Pan Potatoes recipe:

Sliced thinly in quarter rounds

Pan Potatoes

Serves 2 - 4

1 3/4 to 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
3 tablespoons oil or bacon grease
1 teaspoon salt

After about half the total cooking time
Once potatoes are peeled, begin heating a large skillet, preferably nonstick on medium or medium-high. Have a lid handy that will fit the pan. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Lay one half flat side down and slice it again lengthwise. Leave the two strips together and slice across, thinly. Repeat with all the potatoes. Place the oil or grease into the hot skillet,coating the pan evenly, and place all the potatoes into the pan. With a spatula, toss the potatoes well to coat them all with some of the oil. Cover the pan. Leave the heat on medium or medium high and cook for about two minutes. Uncover and toss the potatoes, so that much of the brown is now upwards. Cover and repeat at 2 - 3 minute intervals, tossing briefly each time to scrape up and expose the browned parts. The potatoes are cooked through at about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and toss well.

Another type of potatoes I have been making for years and years - again, which could be made with skins on if desired - are Oven Steak Fries. As mentioned, my husband loves potatoes, and aside from his Dad's Pan Potatoes, Steak Fries have always been a hit. I make my steak fries in the oven, and while they are not fat free, I feel they are less fatty that deep fried potatoes. These come together in under an hour, with only one interruption in the middle to turn them over. Get them going while your main dish is being prepared and you're all set.
Oven Steak Fries

Oven Steak Fries

Serves 2

1 pound russet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil (I use olive oil)
salt as desired, to taste

In the baggie with butter and oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (375 on Convection). Melt the butter; I do this in a zip top bag in the microwave on very short bursts of 10 seconds or so. Add the oil to the bag and have it handy. Slice the peeled potatoes about 1/2 to 5/8-inch thick. End pieces can be left whole. Others, slice in half, or thirds lengthwise to make them about 1-inch wide. Place all the sliced potatoes into the zip top bag and seal. Move the potatoes around in the bag until all the potatoes are well coated. Have ready a large baking sheet with rim. Pour out the potatoes onto the baking sheet and arrange them so none are overlapping. Squeeze out the oil & butter mixture remaining in the bag over the potatoes. Bake them for about 20 minutes. They should have begun to brown. Remove the pan from the oven and turn all the potatoes over so the browned side is up. Return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are nicely golden and cooked through. Sprinkle with salt before serving.
Potatoes on the pan in the oven

I hope these two methods for potatoes will help someone to get a meal on the table in a timely manner with minimal fuss. We both eat these potatoes very often, so I have perfected the methods for them for over 20 years. Neither method takes much time to prepare. One requires supervision for 15 minutes, the other only once in the middle of the approximately 40 minute baking time. Other spices could be used - just not for my husband's version! I have sometimes sneaked in a little shallot with the pan potatoes, but not often. Enjoy these methods at your leisure and season them to fit your needs.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.