I consistently tout The New York Times’ Mark Bittman’s protocol of taking a single ingredient and diagramming it with complementing or contrasting food products to push the cook’s idea of what is possible. In this case, he honors the simple potato. More specifically, the Yukon Gold.
I’m old enough to remember when Tater Tots entered the market, and am courageous enough to admit having eaten them. A lot of them. Bless my mother’s heart. As a non-cook, the always available Tots were her idea of a potato. So I can say that there was a time my life when I thought that’s what potatoes were. That product, as I understand it, was borne by the Ore-Ida founders asking what could be done with leftover potato slivers. They pushed the chopped up slivers, with flour and seasoning, through graters and cut the extruded mixture into Tots. They’re still eaten on a grand scale every day.
In addition to homemade Tater Tots, Mark shows us how to bask in the simple luxury of other potato recipes. I get dreamy when I recollect the Latkes my then-husband’s German mother made 35 years ago. In bacon grease. Mark’s Latke recipe saves me from myself with the use of olive oil. Ahh. His With Greens recipe takes ingredients we all have at home and creates a dish for the soul. The Anchovy and Pesto recipe treats the Yukons like the finest pasta dish. Even the ultra-simple Pommes Annette is elevated through its simplicity to its rich French heritage.
What I may love most about the simple creativity of potatoes is that you can allow them to redefine meals. Golds can be the cornerstone of any creative instinct you may have. Coupled with a bright, simple salad and, perhaps, with even a side vegetable, one has a heavenly meal.
Enter the UnCommon potato, indeed. Your mother would approve.