Thursday, January 20, 2011

Potato Appreciation

It's the dead of winter and the temperature in Minneapolis is refusing to wander far from zero. Last week the combination of the cold and my current status as an unemployed non-student hit me hard. I needed something to do, and I needed some comfort food.

Enter the potato. An objective glance at your basic russets couldn't possibly elicit much love; there's nothing cute or charming about them. But love 'em we do: potatoes never fail to fill us up with starchy warmth; they provide a blank canvas for other foods and flavors; and they stick by us through the bitter months.

So I consulted my Simply in Season cookbook, a beautiful compilation of recipes that feature farmers market vegetables and the seasons in which they are available. I found two potato recipes composed of the same basic ingredients, so I took to the store for carrots, green onions, and lots of potatoes.

Potato Soup
Sauteed half a cup of green onion in 2 tbsp butter in a large saucepan, then added 2 cups of vegetable stock, about 3 cups of diced potatoes and a half a cup of shredded carrots; sprinkled in some salt, pepper, and dried dill; then covered and cooked for 15-20 minutes.

I wanted a creamy soup, so when the potatoes were tender I ladled most of the mixture into a blender and pureed it before returning it to the saucepan. Then I added a mixture of 2 cups milk and 3 tbsp flour (whisked together before adding) and continued to cook and stir until the soup had thickened a bit. And that's that. The shredded carrots and green onions gave the soup beautiful color and mitigated the starchiness of a soup full of russets, but make no mistake: I knew I was eating potatoes.

Dilly Mashed Potatoes
Combined 3 large russets (cubed) and 4 large carrots (thinly sliced) and boiled together until soft. Sauteed a fourth a cup of green onions in 2 tbsp butter and threw in 1 tsp dried dill (are these ingredient looking familiar?). Drained and mashed the potatoes and carrots, then added the onion. Stirred in a half cup of plain yogurt and a bit of salt and pepper, then plopped it all into a greased casserole dish. Topped with shredded cheddar and baked at 350F for 30 minutes.

I suppose I'm also applauding carrots and green onions with these dishes, as they would be a couple of beige flops without the orange and green furnishings. But the star of the show and taker of the cake is our most beloved winter tuber that deserves main dish status every once in a while. Potato: consider yourself honored.

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