September is National Potato Month. The lowly spud; is there anyone who doesn’t love them? And hey, if you use discretion and restraint with the butter, sour cream and cheese, they are actually good for you. It’s hard to think of a time when the potato wasn’t an important part of the western diet, but in fact, being a new world plant, it didn’t make its first appearance in Europe until the Conquistadores brought it back in the late 16th century.
Even then it took a while to catch on. At first, thinking it was a pot herb the leaves were cooked, and being in the Nightshade family it was toxic and on occasion even deadly. It remained suspect by the general populace for several generations and it was some considerable time before the potato was to achieve its eventual popularity. There is now hardly a culture the world around where the potato does not an integral part of the diet and held in high esteem.
The potato not only made a significant impact on the cuisines and diets of the world, it impacted our culture as well. Once the potato was accepted by the general populace it took off like gang busters. There are now dozens of varieties each suited to a particular culinary endeavor.
The much lauded Idaho potato is in fact, a variety of the Burbank potato which was developed by Luther Burbank at his experimental gardens in Santa Rosa, right here in Sonoma co, California. The Burbank, Russet or Idaho potato is probably the most versatile of all the potato varieties, being good for baking, boiling, mashing and salads.
The following is a simple yet delicious dish made with small, red new potatoes and fresh herbs. It makes an excellent accompaniment to meats and poultry and it is also delectable on its own. Vegetarians and Vegans substitute powdered vegetable bouillon for the beef or chicken.
Herb Roasted Red Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6
About 2 pounds small red potatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, minced (thyme, savory, rosemary)
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon powdered chicken or beef bouillon
Fresh coarse ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°f. Wash the potatoes and cut in half if small, in quarters if larger. Pat dry. Put the olive oil in a heavy casserole with a tight fitting lid. Add the potatoes and toss about to coat evenly with the oil. Toss the powdered bouillon, herbs and pepper together and sprinkle over the potatoes, trying to coat them evenly.
Put on the lid and place the casserole in the center of the oven and bake until they are fork tender. Remove the lid, scatter on the parsley, toss gently and return to the oven uncovered and bake until golden brown. Serve hot as a side dish to accompany meat or poultry, or just on their own.
Here are some additional recipes for your enjoyment.