Ah, the potato. America's most-eaten vegetable (albeit usually in the form of french fries or chips), the fuel of the Irish, and a source of much controversy (will it make me fat or won't it??).
I grew up under the impression that potatoes were "unhealthy". Well, if not unhealthy, then at the very least a "waste of calories". There's no nutritional benefit to eating potatoes, they said. The sweet potato has a lot more going for it, they said. Go for more complex carbs, they said.
As I've grown up--and as the base of human knowledge has evolved--my fear and distaste for potatoes has subsided. While not something I eat regularly, I and many others acknowledge that the potato can very well be part of a healthy diet. While it is true that there are more complex carbs you can seek out, potatoes themselves are in actuality pretty harmless--not to mention an insanely powerful food source.
POTATOES: A SAVIOR & A VILLAIN
While working on a dairy goat farm in rural Alaska this year, I discovered a newfound appreciation for potatoes. I would spend the day mounding the potatoes of this year's harvest, and the evening enjoying the potatoes of last year's--potatoes that had been harvested last fall, and yet were still perfectly nourishing more than 6 months later.
I realize that in the age of industrial processing, wax-coated apples, and, well, refrigeration, this seems a tad short of impressive. But make no mistake, the Potato's ability to keep for that long without much aid (they were kept in an underground potato cellar) explains why it became a staple in so many people's diets. Growing potatoes provides the unique opportunity to enjoy the bounty of your personal harvest all year long--without refrigeration, pickling, or modern processing.
So, here's to celebrating the potato, a vegetable that has served as both crucial sustenance during a long winter, and the salty-processed deliciousness that is partly responsible for America's obesity problem. If that isn't an interesting vegetable, then I don't know what is.
SMASHED POTATOES BENEDICT
I've concluded that smashed potatoes are probably the best kind of potatoes. They are everything I want from a potato and more. Soft and starchy on the inside, brown and crispy on the outside, and slightly flattened so that every bite has a little bit of both. Am I the only one who doesn't like to eat the mushy center of a potato all by itself?
When I thought about the texture and shape, making a smashed potatoes benedict seemed obvious. Because potatoes are a rather dense food, I knew I wanted to keep the other components of the benedict relatively light, hence the roasted tomatoes instead of meat and the pesto instead of hollandaise. The idea to make a sour cream pesto came from two simple truths. First, sour cream + potatoes = bomb. Second, I had sour cream in the fridge.
I suppose what I ended up with isn't really a benedict at all, other than being somewhat similar structurally. None the less, a smashed potatoes benedict is delicious, healthy, and simple, and will impress people all the same. Plus, this recipe would be very easy to make for a group: I know millenials love their brunches.
SMASHED POTATOES BENEDICT
with roasted tomatoes and sour cream pesto.
6 small potatoes
6 poached eggs*
2-3 large tomatoes
olive oil for greasing
salt and pepper
for sour cream pesto
1 heaping cup fresh basil
scant 1/4 cup pine nuts (or other nuts, I used almonds because I had them)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sour cream
1-2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Grease two baking sheets with olive oil.
3. Pierce potatoes with a fork, then microwave them for about 6 minutes, flipping occasionally, until soft.**
4. Slice tomatoes in 1/2 inch slices. Place onto baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. When potatoes are soft, place them onto a flat surface, cover with paper towel or dish towel, and using the heel of your hand, individually smash the potatoes down slowly, into ~1/2-inch thick disks. Try to keep them together, but do not worry if you lose some pieces.
6. Using a spatula, place potatoes on the second baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and rub it in to make sure potatoes are covered. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
7. Move both baking sheets to the oven. Tomatoes are ready when they've begun to char, ~25-30 min. Potatoes are ready when they are visibly darker and crispy around the edges, ~35-40 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, make pesto: add ingredients to food processor. Pulse until desired consistency. Ideally, it will be a chunky spread-type texture.
9. Shortly before the potatoes are done, poach your eggs.*
10. Remove potatoes from oven, and plate ingredients as follows: smashed potatoes, spread of pesto, roasted tomatoes, poached egg, more pesto.
*This is my preferred method for poaching eggs. I <3 Alton Brown.
**You can definitely boil your potatoes instead. It was Sunday morning and I was hungry, hence a la microwave.