Innovative Menu Options for Potatoes
By: Stephanie Goldfarb, Produce Alliance Corporate Chef
November 18, 2015
No denying it. Winter is upon us and that means potatoes are too. Potatoes are the perfect, classic anchor in a sea of increasingly innovative menu options, and they are mild enough to adapt and absorb just about any adornment. I tend to focus on two objectives when considering my potato preparation: 1) crispyness and 2) fattiness. Ideally, both in the same dish. Potatoes are best when treated simply by roasting or frying, yielding super crispy skins and tender, or fluffy, soft flesh.
Crispy, onion-laden latkes are my first go-to application for potatoes. As a side dish for grilled or roasted meat or a canvas for an array of toppings and sauces, latkes are inexpensive, delicious, and can be prepped in advance, making it easy to grab spoonfulls of batter and fry to order. Though the classic plain version is my favorite, I am currently experimenting with North African (shredded carrot, cinnamon and harissa), Mexican (chipotle in adobo, lime, achiote crema), and Southeast Asian (lime, cilantro, shrimp paste, togarashi) interpretations. As long as shredded potatoes and onions make it into the recipe, the possibilities are endless.
Potato salad, a great menu standard, can be updated easily by roasting the potatoes in thin discs until they are almost completely crispy. A compelling alternative to the classic boiling method, the crispy potatoes pair gorgeously with simple oil and vinegar dressing, or amped up with a lemon and garlic aioli. Capers, chopped red onion, bell pepper, fresh herbs, and scallions are always welcome additions that cut through the crispy and fatty gloriousness.
Hasselback potatoes, once popular at steak houses in the 1950s and 60s, are making a tremendous comeback on modern restaurant menus. Essentially just a “fancy” baked potato, hasselbacks are whole potatoes that have been sliced thinly (about 8-12 slices per potato) but not completely through, allowing the potato to hold together. The slices are brushed with melted butter, herbs, salt, and pepper which creates incredibly crisp partitions after they are roasted to golden brown perfection. Hasslebacks can be prepped en masse prior to service and re-heated individually in small cast iron pans.
Whether they are pourable and indulgently creamy, or rustic with the skins still on, mashed potatoes are always a hit. The addition of miso paste, roasted poblano peppers, whole cloves of caramelized garlic, or spicy horseradish are easy ways to update the classic. Double the batch and use the second portion to create fried potato cakes, perfect canvasses for brunch eggs, salads, or served on their own.