You may think of potatoes as a Fall/Winter food because, for kids and parents alike, they conjure up comforting feelings of comfort food. What is a braised short rib, after all, but the ideal topping for a perfect pile of mashed potatoes heavy with the tang of buttermilk? But Spring has it’s own potato joy to offer – in the form of tiny, tender New Potatoes. As their name suggests, New Potatoes are simply the first potatoes to be harvested. They are smaller, more tender, and more flavorful versions of their heartier relatives that we enjoy later in the year. For me, new potatoes are almost less of a starch and more of a vegetable – their flavor is so nuanced that it can hardly be relegated to a starchy side dish. Bringing them into your kitchen is a great way to get your kids thinking about the huge variety of vegetables out there. Here are some things to know about these Springtime finds and how best to prepare them:
HEAD TO THE MARKET
The best way to really experience new potatoes (as with so much truly seasonal produce) is to head to your local farmer’s market to search them out. This is a fun activity to do with your kids. Only there will you find a great variety – tiny red-skinned potatoes with white flesh, baby fingerling potatoes with creamy meat and (my personal favorite) “rose” fingerlings that hang on to their pink insides even when cooked. Get a variety and head to the kitchen to experiment.
THE BEST POTATO SALAD YOU’VE EVER HAD
There are few better ways to feature potatoes than in a potato salad. But by “potato salad” I do not mean the mayo-laden glop of the 1950’s. Here’s what we do: cut the new potatoes in half (use a variety for different colors and textures) and drop into salted boiling water and cook until JUST tender – about 5 minutes. Drain and toss with grainy Dijon mustard, chopped celery, chopped dill, lemon zest, chopped scallions, plenty of salt and pepper and some really good olive oil. Do this while the potatoes are still warm so they can soak in the flavors. Eat immediately…..directly out of the bowl is best J If this is too full of flavors for younger kids, just toss the cooked potatoes in a little olive oil and salt for them.
ROAST THEM RIGHT
If you’re a fan of roasted potatoes, here’s our trick on roasting them right:
Cut the potatoes in half and rinse in cold water and pat dry. (This washes off excess starch and allows them to get really crispy.) Toss liberally with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay cut-side-down on a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees until very golden – don’t turn them – just leave them in one place for optimum browning. Remove from oven, sprinkle with more salt and pepper and let sit for 2-3 minutes (if you skip this step, they will stick to the pan). Remove from the pan and enjoy!
Here’s a recipe that starts with roasted potatoes and turns into an amazing side dish. If the addition of pancetta or watercress is not an option for your kids, serve them some simple roasted potatoes and then finish dressing up the dish for the adults.
Roasted Fingerling-Watercress Salad with Pancetta-Shallot Vinaigrette
3 lbs fingerling potatoes
olive oil, as needed
salt and pepper
1 cup diced pancetta
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 bunch watercress
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If the potatoes are very small, simply toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes until golden and tender. If they are medium or large, cut into half or quarters. Rinse in cold water and pat dry before tossing in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting.
Meanwhile, add a drizzle of olive oil to a skillet over high heat. Add the pancetta and cook for a few minutes — when it starts to brown, add the shallots and cook until the mixture is golden. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vinegar and Dijon and 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
When the potatoes come out of the oven, toss immediately with the pancetta mixture. JUST before serving, toss with watercress (watercress will wilt quickly). Season with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately.