Cooking for two isn’t always as easy as it may seem. Those of us who cook almost exclusively for two either modify a ready-made recipe using our math skills and dig into deconstructionist logic and/or we come up with something awesome on our own. While I do modify some recipes, it is much more fun to come up with something on my own. Smash Brown Potatoes – one of my personal recipes – is a perfect little dish for two people. My boyfriend loved them – especially the creaminess of the potatoes with the crisp on the outside. He said they seemed to melt in his mouth. This is because I boil them first, smash them once with a knife and then sauté them. My step-mom taught me this little smashing trick, and it’s made such a difference! This allows for a creamy texture that melts in the mouth. Here is a pictorial step-by-step.
For this recipe, I start with small yellow potatoes. These are baby potatoes. Cute, aren’t they?
Bring 5 cups of water to a boil.
While the water is coming to a boil, cut little potatoes in half.
Boil the potatoes 15 minutes.
While the potatoes are boiling, chop 1/3 of a red bell pepper and 1/4 of a medium onion. One whole bell pepper and one whole onion tend to be far too much for two people, so I often operate in thirds and quarters as seen below in the image on the right.
Some people like to chop their veggies in a completely uniform size. This is pretty important to maintain a consistent cook; however, a little deviation is ok. I think slightly different sizes add a touch of whimsy – just don’t go overboard and make them too crazy big or small, lest you want an uneven cook.
Set out your salt, black pepper, rosemary (removed from the stem) and (if you like) a special ingredient – sugar. Adding sugar to country potatoes is my grandmother’s little trick – I’ll write more about that later. For the rosemary, it doesn’t really matter all that much if you use fresh or dried rosemary. You’ll still get that awesome savory rosemary flavor, but fresh rosemary is the best, in my opinion, if you happen to have it on-hand. I grow it in our yard, so I’ll always have a fresh supply.
While the potatoes are still boiling (remember 15 minutes for these small potatoes), heat up a medium to large sized sauté pan on the stove on medium-high heat. To avoid soggy vegetables, it is important to heat the pan and then oil the pan and allow the oil to heat up prior to sautéing your vegetables. Test the oil for readiness. I drop a small piece of onion in the pan. If it sizzles gently, my pan is ready.
Next, sauté the chopped onion and red pepper in olive oil in a medium sized sauté pan. Sprinkle your preferred amount of salt and pepper onto the veggies and add about 1/4 of the rosemary you’ve set aside for the dish. There is no designated amount, as this dish is all about preference. Sauté until the onions are soft, golden and the red pepper is slightly browned, and somewhat translucent. Do not overcook and burn them, or the onions may taste bitter.
If timed just right, the veggies should be ready about the time your 15 minutes of potato boiling comes to a close. Pour the boiled potatoes into a colander in the sink and rinse with cool water. You won’t have to bring the potatoes to a cold state; however, cool them enough so they are easy to handle without burning your fingers. Lay them out cut side down on a cutting board.
Next comes the really fun part you’ve been waiting for – the smash. You can use almost anything with a flat surface such as the bottom of a small cookie sheet or a plastic cutting board. A cookie sheet works best. Place a cookie sheet on top of the potatoes. Give the cookie sheet a smash over the potatoes. You may have to smash a few different spots to get all of them. That’s ok. If you over-smash, you’ll still be ok. Some people use a knife to smash several at once. I do, but it can be dangerous if you are not used to it. Please be careful and use the cookie sheet if you are unsure or are inexperienced with knives. They should look like this after you lift the cookie sheet:
Your pan should still be heated after you’ve sautéed the vegetables. Heat more oil in the pan over medium-high heat and add the potatoes cut side down in the pan. Looks a bit like sautéing scallops, doesn’t it? Add the remainder of the rosemary and sauté for about 3 minutes to develop a nice sear. Try not to move them around, or they won’t brown properly. Once you have a nice sear, turn down the heat to low-medium. Now here is where my grandmother’s little secret comes into play. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the potatoes and toss the potatoes in the pan. The subtle sugar taste adds a nice balance to the savory dish.
Add the red pepper and onion back to the pan, toss, and continue to sauté for about one minute. Remove from the pan, serve and enjoy!
While the added sugar cuts the savory a tad, I still like to serve these with a side of fruit. Citrus fruits like orange or pineapple seem to be the best, as the juiciness adds a nice balance. Enjoy!
8-10 small baby potatoes cut in half
1/3 – 1/2 (depending upon original size) red bell pepper chopped
1/4 medium onion chopped
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 pinch of sugar
Olive oil (amount by preference)
1 Tbs Rosemary (fresh or dried depending upon preference)