I don’t know. Potatoes just didn’t seem like a real exciting, attention-grabbing, vintage-thing to write about. They are just so…..bland. They are just “there”.
And 60 years ago on the retro dinner table, they were just “there” as well. Ever-present in the American dinner repertoire, potatoes are so commonplace that they have been neglected.
Wait? What? If they are used so often, then how are they neglected? Well, think about it…….we pull through drive-thru’s and order French-fries or hash browns, go to breakfast and order hash browns or baked potatoes, and every holiday known to mankind involves some type of mashed potatoes. Not very creative. It’s as if we have relegated these magnificent wonders of nature to being mashed, baked, fried, or well, fried. They have lost their taste. Their ability to bring uniqueness to any meal – be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.
But wait! There’s more! What if I told you that potatoes are capable of being so much more than pulverized into oblivion and smothered in gravy. NOT that that’s a bad thing mind you – mmmmmm…….gravvvvyyyyy.
Can we get to the potato recipe pretty please?
Oh, I suppose you could just scroll down and see the finished product. Go ahead. Then, when you feel guilty, scroll back up and finish reading my lovingly crafted blog post. Because you, dear reader, are the reason I do this. Helping you not rush through that drive-thru, or have you reheat a bag of frozen white pieces, but to recreate a beautiful dish from the comfort of your past is what I aim to do. And today’s recipe is rediscovered and lovingly recreated from my past. I even found a version of it in a “new” old 1950’s cooking series.
Let’s peruse some titles before we jump in, shall we? Baked potatoes, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows. OK, I’m joking. Here are some interesting ideas: Scalloped Sweet Potatoes, Savory Stew of Sweet Potatoes, French Potato Balls, Potatoes with Cabbage and Cheese Sauce, Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, Irish Dumplings, Eggs in Potato Blankets, Potato Fritters, French Fried Sweet Potatoes (and you thought they were a new invention….), Potatoes with Peanut Butter (really!), Sweet Potato Stuffing for Spareribs, Yam Puff, Grated Potato Soup, Molded Potato Salad, Sweet-Sour Potato Salad, and my personal favorite for the day, Cottage Fried Potatoes. Potatoes are capable of being so much more than deep-fried, mashed or diced. They are pretty much a blank canvas for so many yummy decisions!
I guess I could go into a huge, long and boring History Of The Potato lesson here. I could tell you that all potatoes originated in Peru/Bolivia way back in the day. Like thousands of years B.C. back in the day, if you are into that sort of thing. I could tell you that there are over 4,000 types of potatoes. I could tell you that the type of potato and its own particular characteristics like waxiness and mealiness will determine how it is used. I could tell you that potatoes are used to make certain alcoholic spirits. I could also tell you that Genetically Modified (GMO) potatoes exist. I might also offer that potatoes are used in folk remedies for a bazillion things. But that would be boring….so I won’t do it.
Onto the good stuff!
Today’s recipe had no name in my mind – gasp! – they were just the potatoes that my Granny had made. I just thought of them as potatoes, that we had Sunday mornings with eggs and chorizo. Don’t know what chorizo is? I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Chorizo is a pork sausage, but not the kind that you would cook as a link. It comes in a link, but you don’t cook it that way. It’s just not done. Flavored with paprika, chili pepper, cumin, coriander, cloves, pepper, salt, oregano, onion and a few other spices along with a healthy dose of vinegar – it is a delight for those who love flavorful, mildly spicy Mexican food. Taken out of the casing and minced, cooked and fried with eggs, it is breakfast perfection. And nacho perfection. And soup perfection. Don’t worry, I’ll get to it later this year.
Where was I? Potatoes. Granny. That’s right. Granny was born in 1919, so this recipe most definitely qualifies as vintage. The recipe and my Granny are vintage, not the potatoes! Vintage is commonly defined as anything 20-99 years old – anything over 100 years is considered antique. So there you have it, a recipe for simple, easy, vintage fried potatoes. Wait, I thought there was no recipe. No. But, luckily, I have been able to recreate them for a long time and just came across a recipe that comes close to replicating them. Picture, if you will, the product of an ages-old, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, a plethora of Russet potatoes, a tub of shortening, onions, and a very warm kitchen……(enter fog machine taking us back Tardis-style in time, and then returning us to my kitchen…..)
Cottage Fried Potatoes. Granny’s Potatoes. Good, solid food, whatever it’s called. In all their glory.
If you are looking for something breakfasty to serve them with, how about my Everything In The Kitchen Fritatta?
Here’s how I changed it up:
1. Being more conscious of carbs, I chose purple potatoes instead of Russet/baking potatoes. They still tasted as good as I remembered!
2. I debated frying them in bacon grease – yum – but chose Kerrygold grass-fed butter instead. Coconut oil, palm oil or any other oil would work great. Granny used Crisco. Or lard – I remember seeing a can tucked away in her cabinets. Is there any prettier sight than melted butter?
3. I scrubbed and boiled the potatoes, which were cut in half for faster cooking, for only 10 minutes. The object here is to soften them up so they can be sliced. Not kill them so they can be mashed.
4. When they cooled off, about 20 minutes after removing them from the water, I heated up the pan and very carefully sliced them thinly – about 1/4 of and inch thick. Purple potato skin is very thin and tears easily. Gently, into the pan they went with a generous dose of salt and pepper. No onion because, well, because I didn’t feel like it. Granny used to add green bell peppers occasionally – blech. When they are golden brown and look slightly crispy/crusty, they are ready to be flipped.