Monday, June 27, 2016

New Potatoes Roasted with Pimentón de la Vera

I have really been enjoying the wide variety of new potatoes on offer at my new farmers' market over the past two or three weeks.   The available array is astonishing...and I have only had time so far to sample a few:  beautiful fingerlings, baby reds, and this week, some gorgeous little yellow fleshed potatoes called German Butterballs.   I love potatoes, but it has been a while since I have enjoyed them so much.

My last post featured some of the fingerling potatoes in a simple braise with baby carrots and shelling peas.  We had enjoyed the braise so much that I made it a second time within the span of a week.  Something similar happened with the roasted potatoes that I am posting today.  I served them on Thursday with a Swiss chard frittata, and they were so good I made them again on Sunday night to go with a pork chop and some green beans with almonds.  The first time a used a baby red variety...and the second time those special little German Butterballs.  I'm certain you could use just about any potato that you prefer....or that is available to you at your local market.

As far as food with which to pair your pimentón de la Vera-seasoned potatoes, I would be hard pressed to come up with a chop...or cutlet...or filet...that wouldn't be delicious.  Pimentón de la Vera—or smoked Spanish paprika—is delicious with fish and fowl...and pork and beef and lamb.  If you have never encountered the subtle smoky sweetness of pimentón de la Vera, it's time that you did.  And these simple potatoes are a perfect place to try it out. 

Occasionally I rebel at the thought of giving a hard a fast recipe for something...and this is one of those times.  These are just roasted potatoes...with some extra seasoning.  Everyone who cooks should master the technique of roasting vegetables...a recipe should not be necessary.  It is a basic..and truly easy...method.  When done properly, it produces delicious results that are appropriate for all kinds of occasions and are always greeted with much appreciation.  If you haven't learned the basics of roasting vegetables, then you should take the time to read the detailed post I wrote several years ago on the subject...and then try it out.

For these potatoes, I have altered my method described in that old post in only one respect.  I have incorporated the French technique of finishing with a bit of butter.  Butter added towards the end of the cooking process (to a pan of sautéed or roasted vegetables....or a pan-seared steak or chop...) is a great way to add flavor and moisture.  It also makes foods look great since it rounds out the golden color of whatever it is you are browning (the milk solids in the butter begin to toast and brown immediately upon contact with the hot pan and hot food...then they cling to the food, imparting a beautiful golden brown color as you baste or turn the food over in the melting butterfat).

I have said I don't want to give a recipe...this should be a "to taste" endeavor...but I will give a range on the measurements in addition to the method to get you started.  To begin, choose a roasting pan that will hold the potatoes in a snug single layer.  I like to use a shallow enameled cast iron gratin/casserole.  Scrub the potatoes.  If they are freshly dug new potatoes, the skins will probably rub off—which is fine.  Depending on the size of the potatoes, cut them in halves, quarters or wedges....or leave them whole.  You want them to be in rough 1-inch chunks...some may be slightly larger and some slightly smaller, but they should all be about the same size so they will roast evenly.  If the potatoes you happen to have are long and narrow, simply halve them lengthwise and don't worry that they are longer than an inch. 

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Toss the potatoes in olive oil, smoked paprika, salt & pepper.  For a pound of potatoes, you will need about 1 to 1 1/2 T. of oil (enough to coat the potatoes generously) and 3/4 to 1 t. of pimentón de la Vera (more...or you prefer...).  Spread the potatoes in the pan and transfer to the oven.  

After about 15 to 20 minutes...when the potatoes are sizzling and have begun to take on color, use a pancake turner-style spatula to "stir" and turn them over.  Continue to roast until almost tender...another 10 minutes or so.  Cut some butter into 1/2-inch cubes (about a tablespoon for a pound of potatoes) and add to the pan, tossing and stirring to coat the potatoes in the melting and bubbling butter.  Return the pan to the oven and continue to roast until the potatoes are beautifully browned and tender all the way through.  Stir them once or twice to make sure they aren’t sticking or burning.  When done, remove from the oven and add some chopped flat leaf parsley (roughly 2 T. for a pound of potatoes).  

Serve right away.  You will need about 1 1/4 to 1 1/3 lb of potatoes to feed four people. 

If you read the post on roasting vegetables, you will know there is a lot of wiggle room in the above method.  For example, if you cut your potatoes larger than mine, you will need to lower the oven temperature 25° to 50° (and roast them for a longer length of time).  Similarly, if your pan is more crowded, you will need to increase the temperature...  And if your pan is a bit large (and the potatoes are spread further apart), you will need to lower the temperature.  Your oven will also vary from mine in its power and capacity to brown.  My oven browns very well...  If yours does not, you might need to use a higher temperature.  As always, start with the recipe...then use your senses to adjust as you go to achieve the desired result. 

Finally, I'm certain if you make these simple potatoes that you will come up with some interesting variations.  The second time I made them I added a handful of green olives (pitted and halved...but you could add them whole and unpitted...or whole and pitted) to the pan with the butter.  The olives were deliciously browned and slightly shriveled when the potatoes were done.  I could have added them during just the last couple of minutes if I had only wanted to heat them through.  A few cloves of unpeeled garlic, added at the beginning would be delicious....  Or, you could add a clove of finely minced garlic when you add the parsley.  A little bit of Spanish chorizo, diced and added five minutes before the potatoes are done would be nice too.... There are lots of possibilities...  But really.  None of these variations are necessary.  These simple potatoes are pretty fine with just the pimentón de la Vera, butter and parsley.

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