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Mr. Potato Head

May 9, 2009 | by Chef Herschel Arnow

Let us all praise the common potato.

I'm getting so old that there are not too many people who believe me that when I played Mr. Potato Head it was a real potato. Then the Society for the Protection of Potatoes objected, and Mr. Potato Head was replaced by a poor-excuse made of plastic. Which brings me to the point of my article: Not much can replace a side dish of real potatoes.

Most of the time available potatoes are termed All-Purpose Potatoes. They are around all year and are the least expensive. They can be used for baking, boiling, mashing and salads. The long russet potato is really the best for baking and frying. For boiling, whole new potatoes - either red or white - skinned, are an excellent choice.

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One Shabbat, Mrs. King brought the potatoes. They were great and this is what she did.

4 lbs. small potatoes or larger ones, sliced
3/4 cup oil
3/4 tsp. Paprika
1/2 cup of onion soup mix

Scrape potatoes with a fork for texture. Parboil 12 minutes, drain and pat dry. Mix soup mix and paprika in a small amount of water to dissolve. Combine with oil. Toss potatoes with mixture. Spread potatoes in 1 layer in a large roasting pan in the middle of the oven, turning once until golden brown. Bake 30 minutes at 450°F.

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This version gets a tangy kick from the lemon juice, and conveniently, it uses only dried herbs. These potatoes make a quick side dish that suits my taste for home-cooked meals.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tbsps. fresh lemon juice
2 tsps. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 russet potatoes (about 2 1/4 lbs.), scrubbed (do not peel), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine all ingredients except potatoes in large bowl. Stir to blend well. Add potatoes to seasoning; toss to coat. Transfer potatoes to large rimmed baking sheet, spreading out in single layer. Bake until brown and tender, about 40 minutes, turning potatoes halfway through cooking.

Makes 4 servings.

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2 poblano chilies (a fresh green chili, often called a pasilla, available at Latin American markets and some supermarkets)
4 lbs. russet potatoes (about 6 large), quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled, bruised
1 cup warm half and half
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Char chilies over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Wrap in paper bag and let stand 10 minutes. Peel and seed chilies; chop coarsely.

Cook potatoes and garlic in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 35 minutes. Drain. Transfer potatoes and garlic to bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture is smooth. Gradually beat in half and half. Add butter and beat until melted. Stir in chilies and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings.

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Terrific with turkey or any other roasted meats you might serve throughout the year.

6 tbsps. olive oil
3 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4inch pieces (about 8 cups)
2 lbs. yams (red-skinned sweet potatoes), peeled, cut into 3/4inch pieces (about 4 cups)
2 lbs. tan-skinned sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup fat drippings from turkey or 1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as thyme, marjoram and sage)
3 tbsps. minced garlic

Position racks in bottom third and top third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Brush each of 2 heavy large rimmed baking sheets with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Place remaining 4 tbsps. olive oil in very large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and toss to coat well. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Divide potato mixture between prepared baking sheets.

Roast potatoes 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reverse position of sheets and continue to roast until potatoes are golden brown and tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer potatoes to bowl and serve.

Makes 10 servings.

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These savory, easy-to-prepare potatoes, flavored lightly with parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice are a classic accompaniment for a fish main course. They're practical for serving with baked trout because they don't take much longer to cook than the fish does. In Europe they're flavored with butter, but depending on your preference, you might like to toss them with olive oil or vegetable oil instead.

Whether to peel the potatoes is up to you. When they have attractive skins, I usually leave them on. If you don't have small potatoes, quarter your potatoes so they won't take long to cook.

700 gr. small potatoes
2 tbsps. soft butter, olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp. fresh, strained lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsps. chopped parsley

Scrub potatoes well. Peel if desired. Bring at least 2.5 cm of water to a boil in base of steamer. Boiling water should not reach holes in top of steamer. Set potatoes in steamer top and sprinkle with salt. Cover tightly and steam over high heat about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

Meanwhile mix butter, lemon juice, salt, pepper and 1 tbsp. parsley in a serving bowl.

When potatoes are done, remove them from steamer, drain briefly on paper towels, and transfer to serving bowl. Toss lightly with parsley mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again. Serve immediately, sprinkled with remaining parsley.



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