Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Fair Trade

When I was a little girl, I was all about fairness. I had two stuffed animals that, like most little girls, I wrapped my skinny arms around every night when I went to bed. I loved them both equally and in order to show them that there were no favorites among them, I always made sure to alternate who got to cuddle for the night. But one evening, despite my best efforts, I accidentally fell asleep holding Teddy, the same stuffed animal as the night before. I felt terribly guilty, and what had seemed like a happy, sewn on smile the day before, now looked like a stringy grimace of death across my stuffed bunny's mouth. Bunny's plastic eyes, once shiny and bright, now seemed to brim with jealous tears. The solution was clear: I'd have to cuddle with both every night, without exception. And so, for years after that day, I slept positioned as if posing for a group picture, with one arm wrapped around Teddy, and one around Bunny.

And as an adult I tend to act in similar manners. I alternate which side of the sofa I sit on every night, give each magazine I read equal time, and even alternate between pens at work. The astrology buffs in my life call me a true Libra, always weighing each side of every problem and wanting to give everything it's due share. So naturally I felt bad the other day when I planned to make a potato and kale dish and wound up making crispy kale instead. The potatoes had been in my fridge for so long, aching to be used and slowly withering away, only to be cast aside for some new vegetable. While I'm old enough to know that the potatoes have no feelings, it didn't stop me from feeling the same guilt I did towards my stuffed animals all those years ago. And so I decided I'd have to make something equally delicious, or at the very least give them their own dish, like I had the kale. 

It wouldn't be too difficult, since I happened to have these beautiful rainbow potatoes made up of Purple Peruvians, Pink Firs and Yukon Golds. They each have such distinct flavors and vibrant colors that a complicated preparation wouldn't be necessary. I decided to make juicy, slightly crispy potatoes in the oven, so the only fat involved would be good extra virgin olive oil. I wanted to make the kind of potatoes you always get at a restaurant, but can never quite master at home. So I cut them into eighths, tossed them with a little olive oil and then sprinkled on the salt and some thyme. I spread them out onto an aluminum foil lined tray and popped them into a 400 degree oven. I gave them a quick toss every 10 minutes (so they'd cook and crust evenly) until they were cooked, which ultimately took about 35 minutes. I like to keep oven roasted potatoes moist by giving them one refreshing glug of olive oil halfway through cooking, and seasoning them with pepper and a pinch of sea salt when they're done. It's a great dish to make as a side for a big meal because it doesn't take up room on the stove top, and even if you only remember to toss them once, they still come out great (and have great potential for even lower-maintenance cooking). In the end, I was very happy that they got their moment to shine, and I know that if they did have feelings, they'd be ecstatic to know that I happily ate the entire tray for dinner.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

3 cups chopped potatoes, scrubbed, skin on
1/2 tsp ground dried thyme, or 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp coarse salt (any will do, but coarse sea salt really adds a nice flavor)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Toss potatoes, thyme, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt and olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) together in a large bowl until well coated. 

2. Spread the potatoes out on an aluminum foil covered sheet tray and place in the oven. Cook until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, tossing every 10 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil halfway through cooking to keep potatoes moist.

3. Remove potatoes from oven and toss with pepper and remaining salt before serving. Enjoy!


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