Are your lights on? It’s Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights which started on the 7th this year. I recently had an opportunity to take these Indian spiced potatoes to a Diwali pot luck hosted by the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance in honor of this annual fête. I am not going to lie – although I feel quite confident in the tastiness of this dish – it is a bit daunting to take my spin on classic Indian cuisine to a culinary celebration that includes many Indian professional women chefs. Cultural appropriation is a big thing these days and the culinary world is not exempt. I tried to slide my dish in unnoticed, but it’s lack of “nametag”, sparking a few “what IS this???” comments, and those cute little bell-clad picks that I snagged in Mumbai’s Crawford Market ruined any chance of fading in the background. Oh, and I used habanero flakes instead of plain ole red pepper flakes!! These Indian spiced potatoes are no shrinking violet. Apologies to native Indian chefs for any pirating of their cuisine. And for Pot Lucky fans, rest easy. I already had an Indian feast on the docket for early next year. More taste treats in this flavor palate are on their way soon!
Diwali is a highlight of the Hindu calendar, celebrated in the fall here in the northern hemisphere. It is a triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Sounds like something we could all use these days. “Light” has roots in most all world religions. While Diwali is celebrated for five days, the third day – today, as I write this – is the pinnacle, as it marks the darkest night in the Hindu calendar. Friends and family gather throughout the five days, and food is king.
I spent about a month in India ten years ago with a group from Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. We covered all things food along the entire west coast of the subcontinent, from Thiruvananthapuram to Mumbai. While very enlightening and informative, with stops at so many wonderful spice markets, it is not where this recipe derives its inspiration. I came by this recipe, if not with cultural integrity, with honor. It was handed to me maybe 30 years ago by Louise Spicehandler. If you can’t get spiced potatoes, with cumin, coriander and cardamom from a spice handler, then from whom? While I NEVER LOSE ANYTHING, this tattered print copy is, shall we say, temporarily indisposed. I suspect the original might have been copied from the NY Times, but since I can’t currently locate it, I am not positive. Louise was a great source of recipes and encouragement in my pre-professional days, as I dipped a toe in the culinary stream. As usual, Louise meticulously noted her adjustments in the margins of this recipe, and I meticulously followed them, until I didn’t. I think the ginger and the fresh herbs are my own, but to be honest, I never make it the same way twice. What do I have on hand? That’s the way I like it!!
Indian Spiced Potatoes (Khatte Aloo)
Khatte Aloo, or sour (khatte) potatoes (aloo), are often made with diced, possibly boiled, big potatoes. I can’t resist the cute little mouth-poppable rounds that are now found easily in your supermarket thanks to The Little Potato Company. They are multi-colored, one-bite wonders, serving as a delivery system for a whole lotta spice. And, I like to roast the potatoes, coated in spices, to further release the spices’ aroma.
I have always used lemon juice, but I asked one of the Indian chefs at the pot luck, and she uses lemon and lime. That sounds amazing. However you chose to make them, don’t overthink it. Large & diced or whole & small; spiced then roasted or boiled then spiced; whatever choices you make, Indian spiced potatoes are a great dish to serve with a pick as an hors d’oeuvre or even as a side dish at an Indian feast. I have also served them skewered with brats and peppers, both grilled first, then assembled for serving and topped with a tomato.
This dish is so quick and easy you might have time to run out and get yourself a henna tattoo! Then don’t forget to light the candles. Enjoy!
Khatte Aloo (sour potatoes) traditionally are diced, possibly boiled, potatoes. I like to roast tiny multi-colored, one-bite wonders and dose them with a whole lotta spice! Taste buds…you have been warned!!!
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 1/2 pounds small (large marbles) potatoes
Zest of one and juice of 1/2 lemon, juice reserved
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 425oF.
Pulse cumin, coriander, and cardamom about four pulses in a food processor or spice grinder until coarsely ground.
In a medium bowl, combine potatoes, lemon zest, and ginger. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat the potatoes. Season with cumin, coriander, cardamom, salt, and pepper flakes, stirring until the potatoes are spice-crusted.
Transfer to a sheet pan and spread out in one layer. Roast for 15-18 minutes until cooked through.
Transfer to a serving dish, scraping up additional spices left behind. Drizzle warm potatoes with lemon juice.
Serve warm or at room temperature, as a vegetable side dish or as an hors d’oeuvre. Before serving, toss with chopped mint and cilantro.
Having a German grandmother exposed me to vinegar-style potato salad from an early age. Don’t get me wrong, we had our share of mayo-based summer spuds too, but I developed a taste for the briny acidity and mustard of German-style potato salads at a very early age. What I didn’t see at that time however, growing up in Southern Indiana, was roasted potato salad…only boiled taters in our tater salads. It was only after I developed some culinary chops that I realized the beauty of roasted potatoes…well, TBH, roasted everything. Not only does roasting develop a bit of sweetness from caramelizing the natural carbohydrates, but it saves you from ditching all those wonderful nutrients that are lost when draining the water.
I am able to find tiny marble-sized potatoes both at the farmers market and in the grocery store. There are several brands at the supermarket, including The Little Potato Company. They offer an assortment of cherry-sized fresh creamer potatoes…Baby Boomer, Blushing Belle, Little Charmers, Chilean Splash, among them. If you can’t find a small potato in your market, I recommend roasting new potatoes whole and cutting to size once they have cooled. Not only does it better hold the nutrients, but it also helps keep them a bit creamier which is a good thing in salads. If you were making an oven-roasted side dish, you might want the added golden surfaces from a pre-cut potato. It’s a matter of personal taste, so go with what you know. A whole larger potato will definitely increase cooking time, so keep that in mind.
Now is the perfect time to think about preserving the late summer bounty of tomatoes, so I am counting on you to look back to the post You’ll Thank Me in the Winter Oven-Dried Tomatoes. If you don’t have any on hand and aren’t ready to work on your winter supply, either substitute with sun-dried tomatoes (so inferior!!) or just use fresh tomatoes for the whole recipe, either the heirloom cherries called for in the recipe or chopped Romas or Beefs, enough to make up the one cup tomato total (1/2 cup dried + 1/2 cup fresh). Don’t forget to adjust seasonings, especially salt, if you are only using fresh. The oven-dried tomatoes will bring salt from the prep, so I have cut back on the salt in the recipe in anticipation.
If you are so lucky as to have leftover roasted potato salad, try adding it to a breakfast quesadilla along with scrambled eggs, shredded cheese, and a little avocado, all sandwiched between flour tortillas. And be sure to keep my number handy because I’m gonna wanna show up for that!
This roasted potato salad highlights the potato-y-ness of fresh-dug new potatoes, often lost with boiling. Being a just-say-nay-to-mayo gal, I love the bright flavors of lemon juice with lemon oil. It’s a partay in your mouth! You’re invited.
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons lemon olive oil or EVOO
1/4 teaspoon salt (you will need more if using fresh tomatoes in lieu of oven-dried or sun-dried)
1/2 cup halved heirloom cherry tomatoes (or use 1 cup of either oven-dried or fresh)
4 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped chives
Make the Vinaigrette:
Whisk together the ingredients and refrigerate until needed.
Make the Salad:
Preheat oven to 425oF. Drizzle just enough olive oil over potatoes to coat very lightly and toss to combine. Transfer to a sheet pan and roast until tender, about 13 – 15 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, combine the potatoes with the edamame, both kinds of tomatoes, bacon, scallions, parsley and chives.
Toss with the dressing and refrigerate until serving time. Taste and adjust seasonings, as needed.
I’m not quite sure how I ever made it through to dessert all those years that I mashed potatoes with a – uh, masher. Oh sure, there was always a brother who made a mean mash with just the right amount of chunks left it. But in my family, the men (technically, THE MAN) were supposed to do the carving. That or keep the mimosas cold. The real magic, I think, behind having a potato ricer is that kids of all ages want to get involved. It’s like a giant garlic press and the potatoes come out all wormy and stuff. What’s not to love? And kids actually volunteering for food prep is win-win. Thank you, Ali Price!
I can’t tell you the exact date that I started my ricer love affair, but I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was in the early years of New World Grill and I had a rare evening off and chose to dine at the James Beard house. I couldn’t tell you who was in the kitchen, but I remember clearly being seated with Nicole Routhier, author of beautiful books on Vietnamese food, and Florence Fabricant of the NY Times. There was breaking news and Florence arrived a bit late. As she settled in, Florence talked about an upcoming dinner that she and Frank Prial, NY Times’ wine writer, were hosting to benefit the NY Public Library. For a good number of years, the Times offered these magical dinners – which today would be auctioned online and raise a ton of money in minutes – for a flat ticket price, all proceeds to support NYPL. Florence and Frank always offered FOOD & WINE, Times style. There were other dinners, hosted by famous people, all over town at the exact same time. I was most intrigued by Calvin Trillin’s. He invited the guests into his home and served take-out – or to be more precise, the best Chinese take-out NY had to offer. He had stationed minions all over Chinatown, striking with military precision to bring each dish, the most iconic offering from each restaurant, one by one, on a carefully calculated timetable (“…..like the Entebbe raid”………according to the Times) to be served at the precise moment of each dish’s peak.
I asked who was cooking for Florence and Frank’s party and she said she was – of course. I offered to do the event-time cooking to finish off her prep, so she could be with the guests. To say she was skeptical would be an understatement. She did know who I was and had already written about New World Grill, but I was a newbie. Nicole insisted she take me up on the offer. I left knowing the date and time but little else. I doubt I even thought to panic until the week before. Then, total anxiety set in. Especially when I found out she was making Terence Brennan’s short ribs and mashed potatoes for the main, or more accurately she was making Terence Brennan’s short ribs and I was making mashed potatoes. Sure sure sure – it seems simple, but the simplest food is always an acid test of one’s cooking ability. Did you see The 100-Foot Journey? Helen Mirren had her acid test dish to confirm Chef’s talent – and it was seemingly simple. Same deal for Florence’s potatoes – under-season the water, turn the mash to glue, too wet, too dry, too bland – the stakes were incredibly high. To make matters worse – or as it turns out better – she had forgotten her ricer, “whatever that was”, I thought. She called her husband to bring it over and then handed it off to me. Luckily it didn’t come with –nor need – an owner’s manual. I had this. Salted water to cook, white pepper and a lot of butter to finish. Thankfully my performance was worthy of an invitation to greet the guests and a hug from Florence, neither of which were expected. Johnny Carson himself might as well have invited me to the couch. Thank you, ricer.
Incidentally, Florence also introduced me that night to Indiana’s goat cheese producer – Judy Schad of Capriole Farms. After the short rib course, there was a salad with fuyu persimmon and Wabash Cannonball cheese from Capriole Farms. Seriously – I need to get out more.
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are an excellent blank slate for seasoning as you like. A few posts ago, I used the pistachio pesto recipe to flavor the riced potatoes. Today I am adding fresh goat cheese and thyme. But while using a ricer is simple and flawless, potatoes cooked like this are best mashed to order, so dedicating the burner and the last minute attention may be more than you can swing at a stove-intensive holiday like Thanksgiving.
4 Russet potatoes, about 3 pounds, peeled, quartered, and covered in water
½ cup milk, half and half or cream, warmed (microwave is fine)
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, cut in chunks
3 Tablespoons butter, cut in chunks
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Put the potatoes in a large pot, season with 2 Tablespoons salt and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes release easily when pricked with a fork, about 15-20 minutes. Drain well.