By Susan Simon
(March 11, 2021) What is it about St. Patrick’s Day that lets us all feel a little bit Irish on March 17? A few years ago I sent some of my DNA to 23 and Me for analysis, because even though I could make a pretty good guess as to my genetic code, I was hoping for a few exotic contributions (Italian, no; Sephardic, yes).
The surprise was that my cells contained something like .006 percent Irish genes. Hmmm. Could it be an errant Irish peddler who was passing through the steppes of Russia, hundreds of years ago, that made the fortuitous contribution?
Is my Irish “ancestry” the explanation for my love of the color Kelly green, James Joyce (who actually wrote his Irish masterpiece “Ulysses” during his 10-year residency in Italy), Guinness draft at room temperature, tweed, soda bread, salmon, endless charm; smiling, crinkly eyes; a delicious sense of humor?
I’m happy that both Irelands – the Republic of Ireland is a sovereign state, and Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom – remain devoted to their “Irishness” when it comes to cultural values, which include food. Springtime lamb, summer fish, cold-weather stews and potatoes anytime. Stout and whiskey, too.
Roasted Smashed Potatoes with Salsa Verde
There isn’t an Irish kitchen without potatoes, even though the 19th century potato famine was the cause of untold suffering. According to Wikipedia, “The Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, began in 1845 when a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora infestans (or P. infestans) spread rapidly throughout Ireland. The infestation ruined up to one-half of the potato crop that year, and about three-quarters of the crop over the next seven years. Before it ended in 1852, the Potato Famine resulted in the death of roughly one million Irish from starvation and related causes, with at least another million forced to leave their homeland as refugees.”
Smashed potatoes are a favorite. When they’re dressed up with a similarly-favorite green sauce they become the perfect party food. The soft, creamy insides of little Yukon potatoes, shielded with their own crisped skin, want the herby, garlicky, salty and acid sauce to highlight their appeal.
For the Potatoes:
1-1/2 pounds baby Yukon gold potatoes
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
For the Salsa Verde:
1 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped 2 tablespoons capers
1/4 teaspoon chile paste (I used Calabrian)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, or to taste
1. Scrub the potatoes and place in a large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the potatoes by about two inches. Stir in two tablespoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are very tender and can be easily pierced with a sharp knife, 15-25 minutes.
2. Heat the oven to 450 F. Make the salsa verde: Add the parsley, garlic, capers, chili paste, lemon juice and olive oil to a small mixing bowl and toss together to combine the ingredients. I save adding the salt until I’ve tasted everything together.
3. Drain the cooked potatoes. Line a baking sheet with sides with parchment paper. Place the potatoes on it in a single layer. Cover them with two to three tablespoons olive oil and about 1 teaspoon salt. Use your hands to thoroughly coat them. Use a measuring cup or mug (I use a meat tenderizer) to flatten each potato to 3/4-inch thick.
4. Bake until the bottoms are golden-brown, about 20 minutes. Carefully flip the potatoes with a spatula. Rotate the baking sheet and roast until the second side is browned and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and place on a platter or in a bowl. Cover with the salsa verde and serve.
To read the complete column, including more recipes, pick up the March 11 print edition of The Inquirer and Mirror or register for the I&M’s online edition by clicking here.
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