My neighbor is a rather old chap who lives to garden, quite literally. A couple of years ago his wife passed away and now pretty much all he does is tend his land, I think he is in his late 70’s early 80’s. Last year he purchased and restored a classic Tractor from the 40’s and he eagerly awaits the day when I will allow him to haul my toddler up to the seat and drive around with him. I haven’t prevented this but the E-man is very skeptical of the entire plan and you have to admit, a big tractor can be scary. Of course this is a wee Tractor, just big enough for Mr.N’s “garden”.
That is if you can call a cultivated acre of land a “garden”. When I asked him last year how many potato plants he put in he said “Oh about 100 lbs”. That is 100 lbs of seed potatoes. What the yield on that would be I have no idea. This year I have started my own, slightly less ambitious, garden and when I proudly told Mr.N that I had planted peanuts he asked me how many. I told him 5 plants. He grinned at me and let me know that he had planted 3 rows of the goober-pea. Ah well, I am content to be small potatoes.
And small potatoes is what this post is about. Mr.N was kind enough to give me a few of the earliest potatoes that he robbed from his hills. These are very young potatoes, skins as thin as tissue. If you are skilled you can reach in from the side and sneak a few out without disturbing the production of the main crop. I am quite sure that I would bungle the procedure with my sissy hands, but Mr.N’s gnarled mitts are nimble with experience.
I needed to make something that would let these precious yet ugly jewels shine and I was determined that I could make a meal of them. No side-dish billing for these puppies – they were Marquee talent. I perused my trusty The Best Recipes in the World and decided on something based on the Spanish Tortilla concept. I say concept because I played fast and loose with the recipe. Why? might you ask?
Bittman’s recipe called for an entire cup of olive oil. Cutting the recipe in 1/2 for the amount of ‘taters I had still left me with a 1/2 cup of olive oil – and I couldn’t do it. Nor did I want to include the onions that were called for. No supporting cast was desired – let them stay at the talent scout’s – I had my star!
Faux Spanish Tortilla
Hardware: really sharp knife, large non-stick skillet that you can chuck into the oven (make sure that it doesn’t have a melty handle because a melty handle sucks), lid of sufficient size to fit the pan
I am afraid that this isn’t one of those measurement type recipes because I was really flying by the seat of my pants – the show must go on.
4 medium new potatoes
a couple of “glugs” of milk
Olive Oil (less than 1/2 C)
Cheese (I used mozzarella)
Put the skillet on the stove on medium heat and add a goodly amount of olive oil. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oil is heating slice the potatoes super duper thin. I was too lazy to use my mandolin – I hate the clean-up. Separate the slices and dump them into the hot oil. Stir and flip like a madman to get them all coated with oil, adding oil if it seems necessary. Salt and pepper generously, these are potatoes after all.
You do not want the potatoes to brown, but you want them to become tender. I reduced the heat to low and kept flipping/stirring. When it seemed they were fixin to brown I added some water and clapped a lid on so that they would steam. Of course I frequently lifted the lid and stirred/flipped them so who knows how much actual steaming occurred. During on break in the action when you are not compulsively checking the potatoes, crack your eggs into a bowl and add a couple of glugs of milk. Season with salt, pepper, a generous amount of freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of granulated garlic. Beat the tar out of them with a fork.
Check potatoes. When they are moving towards tender take your lid off so that you can evaporate the water. When almost tender and mostly dry (except for the oil) pat the ‘taters out in an even layer and then pour the egg mixture all over them. Kill the heat to the pan and then decide that you cannot leave well enough alone and sprinkle some cheese over the top. Because hey, who doesn’t like cheese on potatoes?
Put the whole mess into the oven and let it bake until the eggs are set, maybe 10 – 15 minutes. I decided that I really wanted my cheese to be more than just melted so I cranked up the broiler for a couple of minutes and literally stood there and watched it go GB&D. Please, please, please remember that the handle of the pan will be WHITE HOT and use an appropriate protective device to remove it to a safe landing zone.
‘tateriffic! By dialing back on the eggs and making this dish more about the potatoes I really feel like my special produce was able to be all it could be. I had to serve up 1/2 of it to myself and put the rest in the ‘fridge right away – otherwise I would have eaten it all without a second thought. The E-man even deigned to snitch a few chunks of potato off of my plate which is made out of win. Reheated in the same oven I cooked tonight’s uneaten fish sticks (well, they were eaten eventually by me) in it still was very tasty. It wasn’t quite as good as it was fresh out of the oven – but it was better than the fish sticks.