Crispy Smashed New Potatoes

Snowy Palms Resort

While dining out in fancy (read expensive) restaurants it occurred to me that most of the chefs working in them seem to have gone to the same cooking school or at least read the same books. I came to this conclusion by viewing the food as it is presented in front of me and with rare exception it arrives looking like a miniature Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Now I'm all for artful and pleasing food plating and presentation, don't get me wrong, but why does my food all too often look like it was assembled by an engineer? Are all professional chefs frustrated engineers in white chefs coats? Were they neglected as children and had Meccano or Lego sets withheld from them and thus never got the "build it high" out of their system,? What is with this?

I like looking at food before I eat it at a restaurant. I really do. However there are limits to my admiration and one of them is stacking my food then drizzling the demi glace or other reduction all over and around it. The sprig of whatever is green today is a nice touch, but why do you have to molest my food completely before you serve it to me?

Place the starch (potatoes, rice, grains) on the bottom.  Then take the greens or other veggies and place them on the starch. Hello? Does this sound okay to you? Then once artfully arranged atop each other like an orgy in Old Rome, you place the meat on them and then place the sauce over all of them to frame the towering picture. With the addition of some crisped veggie or some other green leafy herb placed atop that pile you have the Leaning Tower of Pisa presentation. Common practice.

Please let me tell you Michelin chefs and all others that like to make my dinner like you would a Lego tower in your living room. STOP NOW!!!  Please continue preparing the food with all the care and professionalism you possess, that I like. But do not let the gravy touch the greens!  That is not good form my friend.

Greens if they could speak would tell you that they do not like other food touching them and in particular abhor warm sauces and gravies. They also don't like being a victim of "piling on". They are solitary things, preferring to keep to themselves and stay out of the pool until called by me, the diner, with the arrival of my fork.

The starch don't like being on the bottom of the pile either and they don't play well with greens. While starch likes sauce and revels in its arrival, they don't want to share to with the greens because the greens like to bleed into the sauce and spoil it for the rest of them. Greens are tasty but selfish, believing that everyone on the plate wants to taste like them.

I don't want my food playing with each other before I eat it! Place the items beside each other yes, but let them keep a respectful distance from each other, don't upset them in their last moments, how unkind are you anyways? Keep the sauce away from the greens. Don't stack.  Simple rules to live by...

I went out for lunch recently with a supplier and on the menu was a nice beef rib dish and it was served with "Smashed Potatoes". Never having been served smashed potatoes before I was intrigued and ordered it. Imagine my dismay when my order came to the table and the food was STACKED!!! I was crestfallen. I really was.

At the bottom of the pile was a wilted spinach greens base, plated out of a mold, nice and round, hockey puck shape. ON TOP of the greens were two smashed new potatoes. ON TOP I tell you!!! Then over the potatoes was the braised short rib. ON TOP!!! Over the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a red wine reduction and topping it all off was a gathering of pea shoots arranged to rest precariously over the rest of their plate-mates.

The sauce was TOUCHING the greens. WTF? Touching them like a groper on a Rome bus. The greens were horrified. Then with a quick fork maneuver I relocated the meeting participants and placed them strategically on the plate, but the sauce was still TOUCHING the greens. They couldn't escape, so doing what greens do when they are horrified and covered with sauce, they bled into the sauce, so now it was a red wine and spinach reduction.

The other part I was miffed at was the spinach bled into the smashed potatoes. The chef took the time and trouble to smash the new potatoes, why I don't know (were they calling him or her names?) then after seasoning them, roasted them to a nice brown and probably crisp in a broiler then plated them.

NEWSFLASH! When the smashed new potatoes got to me they weren't crisp anymore and I think they would have been delicious if still crisp when I received them, but oh no! You allowed the spinach to do what horrified spinach does best and bleed into them and took away their crisp. Shameful...

With the memory of the smashed potatoes debacle still fresh in my mind and having some leftover boiled new potatoes in the fridge along with the leftover pot roast I set to making my own smashed new potatoes and here is what I came up with. They were delicious and CRISPY!!!!

1 dozen cooked whole new potatoes

1/4 cup olive or grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced very fine
pinch salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Place oil, butter, garlic and salt into sauce pan and cook for 5 minutes over low-medium heat to infuse the garlic into the liquid. Remove from heat to cool down a bit, about 5 minutes.

Strain  mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove garlic pieces. (This part is not necessary but I did not want any garlic chunk taking over from the potatoes flavour).

I used a clay baking tray to cook them but if you don't have a nicely seasoned clay baker (horrors!) use a non stick cookie sheet.

Place a bit of garlic oil in 12 places on the cooking tray.

Place a potato onto the oil and then smash or squish the potato down to about 1/4" thick using the palm of your hand, a potato masher or the bottom of a small pot.

Place a teaspoon of garlic oil over each smashed potato, spreading to ensure the top is coated well. Grind a bit of pepper over each one.

Place into preheated 425 degree oven.

Roast at 425 for 8 minutes, then turn oven off and turn the broiler element on. Do not open the door.

Broil until nicely browned. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Do not stack over wilted greens!!!