La Lama Mountain Ovens
The best of the recipes, techniques, and methods practiced by our large extended Italian-American family - with emphasis on the legacy handed down to us by the original immigrants.
This is a cookbook-in-process project. If you try any of these recipes please let us know how they turn out, whether or not you had any difficulties, and any clarifying improvements you might recommend to make them foolproof. We will of course acknowledge genuine "test-kitchen" assistance.
Family Secrets #43
Potatoes Scalloped and Smashed
By Ray Zara, La Lama Mountain Ovens
|Italians love their
vegetables and side dishes. Generally at the family
dinner table the portions of meat are much smaller than
their American counterpart because vegetables, grains and
side dishes play such an important role in Italian
cuisine. Emphasis is placed on the natural flavors of a
perfect vegetable rather than relying on sauces and
complicated embellishments. A drizzle of olive oil, a
squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of parsley with a little
salt and pepper often will be the only dressing given
most vegetables. This is as true of potatoes as it is
with asparagus, broccoli, and all the others.
Potatoes are as much a mainstay in our diet today as they were in the 40's and 50's. When we were growing up, however, the types of potatoes we could buy were limited to two: russets and redskins. The preparation of each was quite definite also. You simply boiled redskins, and you either baked or mashed russets. The small redskins we prize so highly (and pay so much for) today were given away because nobody wanted them.
One of Papa's favorite ways with potatoes was to smash them. He did not care for the highly whipped, smooth and creamy mashed potatoes we see today. His was a much more rustic variation and still remains one of our favorite recipes.
Over the years, however, our experiences and tastes have expanded and we realize that there are times when a more elaborate preparation of the potato is in order. Our recipe for scalloped potatoes is really a classic preparation, but we've elaborated on the procedure so that you may produce a perfect dish. For some reason it seems to be a dish that some cooks are afraid to tackle or have had bad luck with. Follow this recipe and you will have an elegant accompaniment for a special dinner. It especially complements roasted meats such as prime rib or leg of lamb or roast duck. So for the more formal occasion when you want to pull out a few stops, try our version of scalloped potatoes.
There are three important things to consider in order to successfully accomplish this dish. The first is the type of potato. Large russet baking potatoes will give the best results. Avoid using "new potatoes", redskins, or any other high moisture potato.
The slicing of the potatoes is equally important. The best tool for the job is a mandolin, although with a little practice, and some additional time, you can hand slice them. The slices should be no more than an 1/8 inch thick and each slice should be uniform.
Arranging the sliced potatoes in the casserole will determine the final outcome. It is important to use the right sized casserole for the amount of the potatoes you want to prepare. A 12" x 8" casserole that is 2" deep will work fine for the following recipe. Each layer must be placed in the lightly buttered casserole dish with a slight overlap, so that the layers build up evenly, yet you dont end up with potato silos. Four layers will give excellent results.
Total Ingredients to serve 6:
Step One: Prepare and slice the potatoes
Step Two: Load the casserole dish
Step Three: Cook the potatoes
If you prefer a darker brown you may sprinkle a little grated parmesan cheese on top before baking.
Papa's Smashed Potatoes
Allow one medium russet potato for each person.
Peel potatoes and roughly cube. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until thoroughly tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Drain and place in serving dish. Smash the potatoes with the back of a large fork until coarsely broken up. Add a little finely chopped onion, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste. Mix it all together and serve immediately.
Altitude Adjustment: Over 5,000 feet, boil the potatoes ten minutes longer.