So last night, do to a variety of reasons, was a rare, quiet one in our little house. On leaving work a touch later than usual I knew I would be fending for myself as far as dinner was concerned; a situation that doesn't occur very often, and one I normally relish. Though by the time I hit the exit to the parking lot I knew I didn't have it in me to spend hours in the kitchen fussing over that special something or other.
Precisely halfway between the office and home there is an intersection; to carry straight ahead, is to go home. To the right is our local grocery store which, out of habit I still refer to as 'Norm's', even though Norm passed away years ago. Sitting at the 4-way for a time I tried to convince myself to go to the store and grab a few things to make something special even though I did not feel much like cooking. I hoped if I could coerce myself to hang a right, and, begrudgingly pick up a red plastic shopping basket inspiration would find me by the time I hit the produce isle. But this evening it was not to be. Feeling slightly defeated, and with my finger still resting on the turn signal I proceeded across the intersection leaving Norm's, and a potential culinary opportunity behind me.
After making my rounds through the house, chatting with my beloved, and greeting the dogs who act as if I had just returned from a years long polar expedition each and every time a come in the front door, I set out for the kitchen to see what was for dinner. Having been away for the entire holiday season, our cupboards were more than more than Mother Hubbardy. I mean there was nothing, save for a few potatoes, half a Vidalia onion and, for some reason, Celery. I immediatly discounted the latter as a viable ingredient, and decided to make an old standby, Roast Potatoes. A ridiculously easy preparation, with a very satisfying result. Perfect.
All that is required is potatoes ( I prefer Russet for this type of dish), a non non-stick pan, your oil of choice (Olive for this guy), onion, garlic, salt, pepper and spices to taste.
1. First put a good glug of oil into the pan, enough to evenly coat the potatoes once they are tossed in. Wash and cut the spuds into even (ish) sized pieces. The smaller the pieces are, the faster they will cook, and visa versa. I typically quarter the potato lengthwise and then cut the quarters into 3-4 sections depending on the individual tuber's size.
2. Take care of the onion in your preferred manner. I typically cut the onion in half from top to stem, and then slice across the width of the onion leaving me with a pile of 3-4mm wide slices.
3. Rough chop 2-3 cloves of garlic.
4. Throw the spuds, onion slices & garlic into the pan and roll them around until coated with oil. Hit with a healthy pinch or two of Salt (and unless you are in imminent danger of developing a goiter or have been otherwise advised by a member of the medical community it had better not be iodized. More on that later), black pepper, dried Rosemary, Italian seasoning, or what ever spices you have at hand. I actually spotted some dried Ancho Chile powder and added a good sprinkle for a bit of gentle heat.
5. Throw the pan under the broiler set to medium - medium high heat. Our broiler has settings from 1-5 , for this dish I set it 3. I would imagine a broiler temp of around 350 - 400 would be about right though. It should be stated that I use the broiler a lot. I feel it is one of the most versatile and under utilized tools in most kitchens.
6. Pour a glass of wine, make a shaky-shaky of your liking and give the potatoes a peak in a few minutes, or when you start to smell them doing something. If they are turning a little past golden brown on the top, carefully take the pan out and push them around so the non cooked edges are exposed to the broiler. Repeat until the potatoes nicely browned and break under a wooden spoon without too much pressure (approx. 20 - 25 min). Everyone will have their own idea of what 'done' is so just follow your gut on this one.
7. Dump the lot into a serving bowl, or, as I did, directly on a plate. (Remember the pan is crazy hot so be careful, and don't leave it where little hands can reach). Hit again with a pinch of Kosher salt, may be a squirt of Sriracha sauce on the side if you are feeling daring, and you're away. I had a little Danish blue in the fridge which I broke over the top to add a little somthin'- somethin'. (I would have rather used a run of the mill crumbled Blue Cheese for this dish as the Danish Blue is a tad too strong, but I did not have any to hand.)
This is one of those 'go to' dishes for me when I want something satisfying both to prepare and to consume. It is as simple as it gets, and rarely misses the mark as far as I am concerned; The onions get a little char on the ends while releasing all of their sweetness, the garlic, all but disappears into the oil which the potatoes soak in, and the Ancho layers in a nice even heat which slowly blooms after a few bites.
I hope a few of you try this dish on for size if and when the mood strikes you. Please remember this recipe, as with most, are simply foundations, points of departure for you, and all of us, to make something with our very own voice in the kitchen.