I adore pasta, I delight in rice, but like the Irish, I’m passionate about potatoes and wrote an entire chapter about it in my e-book, The Simple Art of Cooking. Potatoes were introduced to Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries from Peru, where they originated. Ireland was one of the first of the European countries to recognize and cultivate the potato. Unfortunately, this “bread of the poor” would one day lead to the terrible potato famine of 1846 in Ireland, when the entire year’s crop was lost.
Whether you’re cooking corn beef and cabbage, poached salmon or an Irish stew for St. Patrick’s Day, here are potato sides to augment your menu. A casserole of potatoes and onions has origins in Parma, Italy, and memories of trips abroad. Do-ahead spinach stuffed baked potatoes is a well-seasoned inspiration from Harrod’s in London. Classic gratin of pureed potatoes and parsnips incorporates half & half and grated Gruyere for a bit of richness. These potato recipes have origins other than Ireland, but as we’ve often heard, “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”
CASSEROLE OF POTATOES WITH ONIONS
This tasty casserole has origins in Parma, Italy.
2 pounds Yukon Gold or all-purpose potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 very large yellow onion, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
To serve: Garnish with coarsely chopped parsley, optional
1. Cut the potatoes into 1/2–inch thick slices and soak in a bowl of cold water.
2. Meanwhile, melt oil and butter in a 10-inch skillet. When butter foam subsides, add onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until slightly tender but not colored. Add parsley and stir to mix. Drain the potatoes and layer them over the onions, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper. Add the broth, cover the skillet and cook without mixing or stirring the potatoes for about 15 minutes. Add more broth as needed. By that time the potatoes should be cooked, soft but not mushy, and the broth completely absorbed. Serve hot from the pan or transfer to a warm serving platter. Sprinkle over extra parsley if desired.
Adapted from Giuliano Bugialli’s Parma, 2005
SPINACH STUFFED BAKED POTATOES
A savory and simple twice-baked potato is an inspiration from Harrod’s in London.
2 large Russet potatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh spinach, heavy stems removed and rinsed in several changes of lukewarm water
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Light sour cream for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
1. Prick potatoes in several places with a fork or a skewer and place on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour depending on size. Remove from oven and cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the pulp into a mixing bowl and reserve shells. Mash the warm pulp in a potato masher or put through a ricer. Add butter, mashing until butter melts.
2. While the potatoes are baking, cook spinach in the water that clings to its leaves after the final rinsing. Cover pan and bring to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes and remove from heat. Drain spinach but do not squeeze very dry, leaving in a bit of moisture. Chop spinach coarsely, season with salt and nutmeg to taste and add to the mashed potatoes. Taste to adjust seasoning.
3. Scoop potato/spinach mixture into reserved shells, mounding them smoothly. Place potatoes in buttered baking dish. Can be done ahead to this point.
4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake stuffed potatoes for 25 to 30 minutes. If desired, serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Visit DansHamptons.com to view Silvia’s recipe for Gratin of Potatoes and Parsnips.
Visit Silvia’s website at savoringthehamptons.com to read her blogs and more recipes.