You can’t deny the potato’s popularity. They are certainly delicious and versatile, and with this dish you can combine the spud with salad in the same elegant side. Plus, there are good reasons to indulge in the potato’s deliciousness—they are full of potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, niacin and fiber. And with this simple yet interesting way to prepare potatoes, they come out of the oven browned and crunchy on the outside yet tender on the inside.
As the author of Yummy Potatoes, Marlena Spieler, who created this recipe for Real Food, is a master at creating twists on ways to enjoy potatoes. Want to chew on more than the delicious spud? Here’s a nibble of history courtesy of Spieler: Given the popularity of this tuber of goodness, you’d think that the route of the potato to the table of the world would be an easy one: The potatoes arrive, people eat them! But that was not the case. When the potato arrived in Europe, people valued it mostly for its beautiful blue flowers; Marie Antoinette was said to wear a bouquet in her hair. But they were frightened to eat the tubers, suspecting them to be poisonous. Thus, for centuries Europeans chose hunger over potatoes. From war in Eastern Europe (during which potatoes kept soldiers nourished) to the French government holding an all-potato dinner at Versailles (in an effort to woo chefs and eaters alike), each European culture realized the potato was harmless and healthy. Easy to grow and endlessly versatile, this “new” vegetable quickly became a treasured part of the cuisine in culture after culture. The potato was cultivated in the High Andes about 4,000 years ago but most likely arrived on the doorstep of North America having crossed the ocean with the Europeans, many of them, ironically, fleeing a potato blight in their homelands.
For this dish, don’t be tempted to use massive potatoes, suggests Spieler; they take forever to cook. Medium spuds give a nice assortment of textures in a reasonable amount of time, and smaller potatoes are good too.
Hasselback Potatoes with Watercress and Watercress Sauce
Makes 4 to 6 servings
11⁄2 pounds medium to small-medium potatoes, unpeeled
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 to 2 cloves chopped garlic
several handfuls watercress (about 11⁄2 cups) plus more for serving
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped, or 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped
6 to 8 tablespoons melted butter
2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. For the watercress sauce: In a food processor or blender, whirl green onion, garlic, watercress, mayonnaise and dill (or tarragon) until a smooth, green purée. Slowly add butter then lemon juice. Season to taste and chill until ready to use.
3. For the potatoes: Place a potato in the bowl of a large soup spoon and cut into thin slices until you reach bottom of spoon. (The spoon prevents the knife from slicing all the way through.) Repeat with remaining potatoes.
4. Combine oil with garlic and rub over potatoes, getting into crevices. Pour remaining mixture over potatoes, sprinkle generously with coarse salt, and place in oven.
5. Depending on size and age of potatoes, roast 45 to 60 minutes, until browned and crunchy on the outside and tender within. Baste potatoes with oil once or twice to encourage more crunch.
6. Just before serving, sprinkle with thyme, if desired. Serve on a bed of watercress with watercress sauce.
Nutrition info (per serving): Calories 463 (349 from fat); Fat 40g (sat. 13g); Chol 45mg; Sodium 270mg; Carb 26g; Fiber 3g; Protein 4g