CRUSHED BUT NOT BROKEN

I don’t know how it happened, but I love that it did. After a dizzying array of superlative dishes — octopus, mozzarella, duck ragu gnocchi, sweet corn ravioli, rabbit, short rib — the dish that won my deepest admiration for Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles was a humble side dish (contorni) of fried potatoes with rosemary. This was the dish that I kept revisiting in my mind, weeks later. The potatoes were crunchy then soft, intensely fragrant then deeply savory. Seems simple, but you just don’t find potatoes done like this all around town. The key here is that the potatoes are crushed-but-not-broken, that transitional state at which potatoes, like humans, seem to shine brightest.

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FRIED POTATOES with ROSEMARY & SMOKED SEA SALT

inspired by Osteria Mozza, adapted from a recipe by Nancy Silverton:
about 2 pounds of small potatoes, eg. fingerling
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
about 1/4 cup fresh rosemary, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp (smoked, optional) coarse sea salt or more to taste
freshly cracked black pepper

Microwave the potatoes for 3-4 minutes until slightly softened. Use the flat side of a cleaver or chef’s knife to smash each potato to about 1/2-inch thickness but still intact. Heat the oven to 400. Meanwhile on the stovetop, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the potatoes but avoid crowding. When the potatoes are golden brown, add a portion of the rosemary leaves. After 30 seconds, use a strainer to transfer the potatoes and rosemary to a wire rack or a dish lined with a paper towel. Repeat in batches until done. If the potatoes are not fully crisp, transfer them to a baking pan and place in the oven until crispy. Toss with any remaining fried rosemary, sea salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.

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