Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer Potato Harvest

 No matter how many we get I am always disappointed by out potato yield. Homegrown spuds are so delicious (James is a big potato fan) store-bought or even farmers market just can't compare and we're always greedy to stockpile more of our own colorful varieties. This year I tried a new technique. Instead of covering the maturing tubers with soil as the greens grew, I started the seed potatoes basically on a pile of compost and built up a column of straw for the growing spuds to work through. Again, not the yield I dream of, but the very clean harvested potatoes dropped easily from the hay leaving a rich bed of soil to quickly plant with late summer peas. The method may need improvement but the potatoes are first rate.
 To showcase our harvest I wanted something simple to let the homegrown flavor shine through. I thought about gratins or soups or fritters or stews where the potatoes alone might have been the entree, but they all seemed just too fussy. Too likely to hide the flavor or distract from the quality. I wanted James to recognize the very potatoes he helped me harvest.
I settled on a simple braise from the scion of simplicity Alice Waters. Nothing but potato rounds, butter and salt cooked gently in a small bit of simmering water. I sliced 2 pounds of small potatoes in 1/8" rounds and layered them in a 12 inch skillet. I topped the potatoes with 1 tsp salt and 6 TB of butter cut into small pieces. I poured in 2 cups of water and covered the vegetables with a buttered round of parchment paper (butter side down) and allowed the pan to simmer for about 35 minutes until the liquid was nearly evaporated and the tender potatoes glistened with rich, melted butter.
So far I had a side dish. No matter how special the potatoes, even the best side dish needs a main. Nothing flashy, nothing to overshadow. A partner not a solo act.
Rummaging through the freezer I found a chuck steak. One of those cuts tucked away in our CSA box that fall into the pot roast rut. When your box has cuts labeled chuck steak, pot roast, and beef stew it's hard to keep coming up with new ideas. Tonight I figured the label said steak and I was going to try turning that lonely piece of chuck into a real steak. I chopped up a good quantity of rosemary, thyme, and garlic with salt and chili flakes. And after a quick coating with olive oil I patted my spice rub on the waiting steak and let the flavors soak in for 10 minutes. While the oven pre-heated to 375º I seared the flavored chuck steak on all sides and then popped it -- cast iron pan and all -- into the waiting oven for about 50 minutes to cook through.
James is usually a filet man but I didn't get any complaints about this slightly toothsome but super flavorful (not to mention super economical) steak. Along with an arugula salad picked just minutes before dinner, we had a classic American meal with a garden fresh twist starring the humble, homegrown potato.

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