10/05/17 — Heydon Hatcher

Photo and Recipe by Mackenzie Smith

“It is easy to think of potatoes, and fortunately for men who have not much money it is easy to think of them with a certain safety. Potatoes are one of the last things to disappear, in times of war, which is probably why they should not be forgotten in times of peace.” - How to Cook a Wolf, MFK Fisher, 1942.

Up until a few months ago, I had been treating potatoes with hardly any regard. And because I didn’t cook them often or have a vision for how I wanted to enjoy them, they were always the first to trade when I picked up our CSA on Saturdays. Maybe it was the 95 percent chance that I’d make a potato hash that never softened up before it burned, or the mediocre potato salads from the church potlucks of my youth. My inclination to save making mashed potatoes for special occasions (the cheesier, the creamier, the more butter, the better) probably had something to do with the aversion, too.

Whatever the reason, everything changed after my parents had me dig a few red potatoes from their garden out in Driftwood back in June. Pulling them out of the ground made me realize my attitude toward spuds had less to do with their awesomeness, and more with how I had prepared them in the past. I finally made a hash that wasn’t a disappointment, and stopped trading the potatoes that came in my CSA from JBG.

My solution? Parboiling potatoes in water as salty as the ocean until they’re just soft enough to pierce with a fork during Sunday meal prep. That step makes for quick prep on weekdays when I have less time to make a meal. With these on hand, the once dreadful hash crisps well and cooks fast, crispy smashed potatoes come together very quickly, and adding cut potatoes to soups in the last 15 minutes or so works beautifully for me.

No doubt I have much to learn about how to appreciate the humble potato and I look forward to adding more foolproof recipes to my arsenal. In the meantime, you’ll find me bathing them in boiling saltwater on Sundays and using them as an ingredient for my meals throughout the week.

My friend Michael Harlan Turkell’s newest book, Acid Trip, hit the shelves last week! This gem shows us the world through the lens of vinegar, with recipes from chefs and vinegar makers around the globe, and a fascinating account of how he starting making vinegar, along with instructions to make your own. Get into it!