Perfect Potatoes

Perfect Potatoes

There’s a technique that creates a perfect potato (in my opinion) which, upon trying it, has changed the way I cook potatoes at home. It doesn’t matter if it’s a red potato, Yukon gold, sweet potato, yam… just start with a potato, follow my steps, and see how it turns out. I’ll replicate this in future posts with different potatoes, but for this posting I had local Colorado red potatoes on hand.

First, par-boil them in salted water until a knife can pierce them without force.

Then, take them out of the water and let them sit until they’re cool enough to touch. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

When a potato is par-boiled, it’s not quite cooked evenly through, and you can see the difference in doneness when it’s sliced in half.

par-boilded potatoes

For this particular evening, I sliced the almost fist-sized potatoes in half, sliced the halves, and then cut them again in half to 2-inch long pieces. You could slice them into any length or width you want, but your oven roasting time might then vary.

I tossed the potatoes with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread them on a baking sheet.

Perfect Potatoes

After 10-15 minutes in the oven they’ll be sizzling, or as I like to say, “talking to you,” at which point it’s OK to check to see how brown they are on the underside. When they’re looking crispy, I flip them, repeat the process, and voila- a perfect potato.

Perfect Potatoes

They have the crust of something fried with the creamy interior of a french fry done correctly, yet are tossed in just a few tablespoons of olive oil. They’re not just a guilty pleasure of mine, but something I’m really proud of figuring out while chef’s out working and I’m preparing dinner.

Veggie Shepherd’s Pot Pie

I must admit- I’ve really started slacking at cooking since Sean and I met. He’s such a talented chef and spent the last year cooking for us many nights each week, regardless of his work schedule. All of that changed since taking on his new role as Kitchen Manager at Zeal. He spent a month getting the place up and running and now, almost two months into his new job, is hardly ever at home, so I have stepped back into my role as an avid home cook. He deserves it, and it’s fun for me, too.

As it’s winter, I thought something hearty would be enjoyed for dinner. I’m calling this one a Veggie Shepherd’s Pot Pie. It is pretty easy to prepare, but takes some time, so allow a few hours from start to finish.

Veggie Shepherd's Pot Pie

First, I made the pie crust by basically following THIS RECIPE but adjusting it for just one cup of flower. After making the dough, I let it sit in the fridge for a little over an hour to chill.

While the dough was chilling in the fridge, I started chopping a yellow onion, four or five stalks of celery, four rather large carrots, and a peeled garnet yam. I added these to a sauté pan with a little olive oil and let them slowly start to cook. Next, I chopped up two Smoked Apple Sage Sausages (vegan sausages, of course) made by Field Roast, an artisan grain meat company. Sean introduced me to this company and I’ve come to really enjoy some of their products. It’s not typical fake meat trying to imitate meat and meat products. Field Roast makes a variety of sausages that are clearly not meat, yet are versatile and tasty additions that complete many of our vegetarian dishes here at home. And, the ingredient list on their sausages meets my high standards.

So, into the pan went the chopped sausage, a few splashes of homemade veggie broth, and I let this all cook on medium for thirty or forty minutes. Then I salted and peppered to taste, added a pinch of dried crumpled sage, a little parsley and thyme. I chopped a handful of kale and added it to the mix at the end and took my pan off the heat. It was now time to roll out my dough, make my bottom crust in a pie pan, and add the filling.

Untopped Vegan Shepher'd Pot Pie

Don’t forget to PREHEAT THE OVEN, by the way, to 350 degrees.

I boiled water and cooked a white Hannah yam while making the filling, but set it to the side for the first 15 minutes the pie was in the oven. When the yam was cool enough to touch, I mashed it and spread it over the pie (which I had briefly taken out of the oven, of course) and then let it bake until the top was starting to develop a crust and turn brown and the pie crust was golden and crispy (20 more minutes or so). The look on Sean’s face when he returned home after another fifteen hour work day was all I needed to know I had really shown him how much I care. After all, we all know the way to a man’s heart…

Veggie Shepher'd Pot Pie

One slice of this was definitely not enough for either of us. I must admit- this was one of my best dishes in a long time.

Green Bean and Purple Potato Salad

I love stopping by the Black Cat Farmstand at the Boulder Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings to see what Chef/Farmer Eric Skokan is harvesting. I’ve been getting into the habit of letting him suggest I try something, and then I ask him how I’m going to prepare it. He almost effortlessly rattles off a recipe to highlight something seasonal, and I rush home inspired to try it. This past week I bought his first harvest of green beans. They were a light green color, which leads me to believe they have some special name other than “green beans,” but for the purpose of this post, they were Black Cat Farm Green Beans. Chef Skokan suggested I blanch them, cool them off, and add them to a potato saldad in a mustard vinaigrette.  So, that’s exactly what I did. I bought a pound of local purple potatoes from the market that day and boiled them after blanching 2 big handfulls of the beans. When they were cool, I coarsely chopped them, mixed them with the green beans, and tossed them in a maple mustard vinaigrette. I let this chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving with turkey burgers and corn on the cob. A perfect summer meal. For a simple Maple Mustard Vinaigrette, whisk together:

  •  2 TB Grade B Pure Vermont Maple Syrup
  • 2 TB Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup Walnut Oil
  • 1 TB Apple Cider Vinegar
  • a splash of soy sauce

Fall Harvest Veggie Soup

Fruits and veggies just taste better when they’re fresh, local, organic, and seasonal. That is the bottom line. I can pretty much guarantee that this soup would not have been so incredibly delicious had I purchased the ingredients at the store… especially in the middle of January.
But… that day will come. Right now, though, I will be savoring every last bite of my Fall Harvest Veggie Soup.

It was quite easy- Into a large stock pot went the following ingredients in the following order, allowing a little time in between each ingredient to bring the broth back to a boil:
  • 1 quart water (bring to a boil)
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 4 cups grilled, blended tomato puree
  • 4 carrots, quartered and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into pieces approximately the same size as the potatoes
  • 1 pound red fingerling potatoes, cubed
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms from Hazel Dell
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
After this cooked for 45 minutes or so, I added a couple teaspoons of sea salt and some Smoked Spanish Sweet Paprika that I bought from Savory Spice Shop.
I served it with some bread and mozzarella cheese. It was really, really good soup. I’m glad I have some leftovers.
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