Sunday, September 29, 2013

Salt & Vinegar Smashed Potatoes

So, as many of you know, I'm a confirmed Anglophile. I remember as a child, when the only voices I normally heard had very "New England" accents, listening to veddy English voices on shows that used to air on PBS, and thinking "I like those people".

 I was raised knowing that I was Irish on my mother's side. Very. My first exposure to Gaelic was listening to The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem records at my Nana's house. Of my dad's side of the family, I knew pretty much nothing. But for some reason, I knew I liked the sound of English english. 

Cut to 2010, when I scammed 30 days free on "". Found out most of my dad's family came here from England in the late 1600's, landing in Barnstable Mass. Imagine how freaked to the core I was when I found out that (again, according to and who can doubt a Mormon?) Elinor of Aquitaine is my 25th-great-grandmother. Less excited to find out that I descend from the 'idiot son' John. Hey, Plantagenet blood still counts if your 24th-great-grandfather was a mouth-breather, right? Being the queen that I am, I was convinced this meant I was somehow related to Katherine Hepburn, who played Elinor so brilliantly in the film version of "The Lion In Winter."

 Nobody said I was a rocket scientist.

 In any event, this is a roundabout way to introduce this recipe. You can't get much more Brit than fish 'n chips. The chips, of course, are what Americans call fries. And you can't have chips without vinegar. Malt vinegar, to be exact. It is nearly impossible to find proper chips in the US - even here in New England, which judging by the name, you would think would have a chippy on every corner. Not so much. So, here's a sort of kind of version of them that can be made with stuff you can find here in the States. As I said, this is a 'version', not meant to be the real thing. But they're pretty damned good.

1 1/2 pounds red bliss or new potatoes. You want them on the smallish side - like 1" x 2".
1 1/2 cups salt (a little more if you're using kosher or sea salt)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup malt vinegar (don't even try to fake this part. Malt or nothing.)

 Preheat your oven to 400 and have the top rack one down from the highest it can go.

 Put about a half gallon of water in a medium pan. Add 1 1/2 cups salt. (I know. Trust me.) Wash the potatoes, remove eyes with a paring knife if necessary. When the water boils, dump the potatoes in. Boil until they're about halfway cooked (say, 8 minutes or so). Use a slotted spoon or a spider to pull the potatoes out of the water, set on a wire rack or towel to cool & dry.

When they're dry, they'll look a bit frosted from the shitload of salt you put in the water. This is what we want. This is good.

Get a rimmed baking sheet. Pour about half of the oil in the bottom of the pan and spread it around. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet. Now, if you've got another baking sheet or casserole pan, use this. Otherwise you can use the base of a pint glass.

Smash the potatoes until they're about 1/4 inch thick. Take a brush and brush the top of each of the smashed spuds with the malt vinegar. Be generous.

 Put the potatoes in the oven and cook for 20 minutes or so, until they look good. Take out the pan, flip the potatoes and repeat the vinegar treatment. Then put the rest of the oil over everything. Back in the oven, for another 10 to 15 minutes.

 If you have it, and you really want to gild the lily, you can put a final, sparing sprinkle of Maldon salt over the whole batch when you pull it out of the oven to get that extra crunch. Yes, this will be your entire day's RDA of sodium. It'll also be the best feckin' potatoes you've ever et.

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