Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The simple potato is full of wonders; it simply needs to be understood

Potatoes, seemingly a common and innocuous vegetable, are actually full of wonders when understood and prepared properly in ways that highlight their natural virtues.

Granted, it’s often challenging or impossible to find different varieties of papas in Mexico, but they’re also very versatile and forgiving (up to a certain point).

I like to keep some parboiled potatoes in my fridge so I always have them on hand, either for a quick sheet-pan dinner (tossed in a Balsamic-soy-garlic mixture with chicken or other root veggies), a potato salad, or a messy home-fry bowl I can top with avocado, fresh cilantro and crema.

Another favorite of mine is to brush parboiled potato wedges with mayonnaise, dust ‘em with salt and pepper, maybe some dried oregano, and broil for about 15 minutes, turning once or twice. Delicious!

While I’ll be the first to admit there’s nothing that compares to a street-fired papa loca, rest assured the recipes below will hold their own at any table.

It's not a street-fired papa loca but this Sour Cream & Onion Potato Salad will hold its own at any table.
It’s not a street-fired papa loca but this Sour Cream & Onion Potato Salad will hold its own at any table.

Sour Cream & Onion Potato Salad

Don’t worry if the dressing looks a little watery at first — it will all get absorbed and be nice and creamy.

  • 2 lbs. baby potatoes
  • ¼ cup salt, plus more
  • ¾ cup crema or sour cream
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bunch chives
  • ¼ small red onion
  • ½ cup sour cream & onion potato chips

Place potatoes in a large pot, cover with 3 qt. water, add ¼ cup salt, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. (Yes, this is a lot of salt.) Once water boils, reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook potatoes until fork-tender, 15–20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make dressing: combine sour cream, mayonnaise, onion powder, mustard and pepper in a large bowl. Finely grate garlic into dressing and stir. Thinly slice 1 bunch chives; add half to dressing; set remaining aside for serving. Slice red onion as thinly as possible; add half to bowl with dressing and reserve rest for serving.

Scoop out ½ cup potato cooking liquid and set aside. Drain potatoes and let cool 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle but still warm so they absorb the flavors of the dressing. Crush each potato slightly with your hands and add to bowl with dressing and reserved ¼ cup potato cooking liquid. Toss gently. Top with reserved chives and onion.  Crumble potato chips on top just before serving. -Bon Apetit

Potato Onion Fritatta

Leftover roasted potatoes or boiled cubed potatoes will both work for this.

  • About 2 cups cooked potatoes
  • 8 eggs
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin rings
  • Butter or oil
  • Optional: Cooked chorizo or bacon to crumble on top

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, beat 8 eggs with salt and pepper until they’re uniformly yellow. In a cast-iron or nonstick skillet, sauté onion in a little butter or oil until golden and soft.

Season with salt and pepper, stir in the potatoes and toss. Pour in beaten eggs, stir to combine, and place pan in oven.

Baking time is variable, depending on how much the eggs cooked when you stirred them around in the pan. Start checking after five minutes but don’t be surprised if it takes 10-15 minutes. Fritatta is done when it jiggles only slightly in the center when you move the pan. Top with chorizo or bacon if desired. Serve hot, warm, or even cold. –

Smash these potatoes for maximum crispiness.
Smash these potatoes for maximum crispiness.

Crusty Smashed Potatoes with Onions & Parsley

Smashing the cooked potatoes makes for maximum crispy surface area.

  • 1¼ lbs. tiny potatoes (the size of a golf ball)
  • ⅓ cup chicken fat or olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ small yellow onion, thinly sliced into rings
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt & pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

Wash but don’t peel potatoes; steam or boil until tender. Let cool slightly. Using the bottom of a bowl or cup, or the palm of your hand, smash potatoes until just crushed to expose the inside, but not so much that they fall apart.

Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet over medium–high heat. Add potatoes in a single layer (work in batches, if necessary) and season with salt and pepper. Cook until both sides are very browned and very crispy, about 5 minutes per side. Remove potatoes to a serving bowl or platter. Add butter to skillet; let it melt and foam. Add onion rings in a single layer; season with salt and pepper. Cook, swirling skillet occasionally, until onions are golden brown and starting to crisp, 3-5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes. Remove from heat. Pour onions and any butter in skillet over the potatoes. Top with fresh herbs. –

Janet Blaser of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her work has appeared in numerous travel and expat publications as well as newspapers and magazines. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at

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