Cramming and Smashing (with a recipe)
This is cram week for us. This is the point in the school year where we (I) decide that we (I) have just had enough of school and decide to cram the rest of the year’s school work into a shorter than advised period of time. We don’t do this for all subjects; just the ones that I feel can be hurried up and finished without losing the quality of instruction or work, not to mention my mind. Lest you think I am some sort of evil schoolmaster, the boys have already finished several subjects and have been having some extra time in the day for a few weeks now. So this week will be more work, yes, but really probably less than one of our typical full school days. Then we’ll be done — yay!
The other thing I have been cramming on lately is my mitered cross blanket. I finally got the border done after a 2 hour bind-off session that resulted in many spit splices and an edge of my seat finish. It’s not easy to estimate how much yarn you’ll need to bind off something that’s over 1100 stitches. I ran out of yarn several times and had to call upon those little bits of balls that usually go in the trash or are saved for little mending projects. It didn’t help that I decided to bind off with the yarn doubled. Noro yarn is so uneven in its thickness that I thought doubling up the yarn would help make for a stronger edge and would be less likely to fray.
Here’s a little preview shot in its unblocked glory. I still have a lot of ends to weave in as well.
After the bind off, I had about 2 yards of yarn left. I started with 8 balls of Noro sock yarn, 5 Kureyon and 3 Silk Garden. This certainly satisfies my desire not to have much leftover, but it sure is cutting it close. Next time, I may not be so lucky, but I do like to live dangerously.
Once I was done cramming all that knitting into my life, I decided to do a little smashing so that I could cram something in my mouth to reward myself.
Have you heard of this new fad in cooking potatoes? I’ve seen recipes for smashed potatoes showing up in cookbooks and recipe sites lately. Yesterday, while looking at a 5lb bag of potatoes that have been sitting around in our house for a long time, I decided to try them. The recipe kinda goes against the grain of how I normally cook. Generally, I don’t go for recipes that have you cook something twice. I mean, I cooked it the first time, why do I want to spend the time and energy to cook it again?
But, I was in the mood for something new, so after the husband trimmed all the eyes off the potatoes (I know, isn’t he great?), I boiled them in a big pot of water. Then, I took them out and let them cool a bit.
Several glugs of olive oil and a hefty portion of the bacon fat leftover from brunch went into a sheet pan to mingle. Then, I laid out all of the potatoes on the pan and smashed them. I used the bottom of an empty jar, but a flat bottom meat tenderizer would work as well or the side of a knife. Since we had a lot of potatoes, they were a little crowded in the pan, but I put them in the oven anyway.
After about 20-25 minutes at 450 degrees (with the convection fan on) and one mid roast flip, the smashed potatoes were ready.
And, wow, they were delicious. The uneven edges crisped up nicely, but they still had that lovely, creamy texture of boiled potatoes on the inside. My youngest, who really does not care for potatoes in any form, declared it to be his favorite part of the meal. And we would have to agree. Especially if you dip the crunchy potatoes in grilled meat jus.
I know I’m supposed to be watching my waistline for the bathing suit season, but it was hard not to eat the whole pan of potatoes because you know that they won’t taste the same when they are reheated. Sometimes, you just have to make sacrifices for good food. And, it is cram week after all.
Oh? Did you want a recipe? Well, it’s more of a technique, really, but I’ll lay it out for you anyway.
Oven Roasted Smashed Potatoes
Small potatoes, 1-2 inches in diameter. The amount doesn’t really matter. We fit about 4.5 pounds of potatoes on a half sheet pan. Wash and trim as many as you want to eat. We used Yukon Gold, but reds would be good also.
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
2-4 tablespoons of bacon fat, butter, duck fat, or more olive oil
Salt and pepper.
1. Bring the potatoes to a boil in a large pot of salted water (1 tablespoon of salt per 10 cups or so). Boil for about 15 minutes or until just tender. Do not overcook. You want them to be soft enough to smash, but not mushy or they won’t keep their shape.
2. Preheat your oven to 450 and turn on the convection fan, if you have one. If you don’t, you may want to increase your oven temperature to 475.
3. Line a half sheet pan with heavy duty foil (makes for easy clean up later, but you can skip this if you like to wash oily pans). Place 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of bacon fat (or whatever other fat you are using) into the pan. Slide into the oven to mingle for a few minutes. Be sure to take it out after just a few minutes. You don’t want your oil to smoke. Spread the oil around so the whole bottom is oiled.
4. When the potatoes are done boiling, drain them and let cool a few minutes until you can handle them. Arrange them, evenly spaced apart, on the pan.
5. Using something flat and heavy, like the bottom of a large jar, or even a small frying pan would work, smash the potatoes on the pan until they are about half an inch thick or one cm. Sprinke with salt and pepper.
6. Roast for about 10 minutes or until just starting to brown. Flip carefully using a spatula or tongs. Add the remaining oil in the pan. Don’t skimp on the oil. You need it for the crispy crunchies! A lot of it will stay in the pan when they are done, so don’t worry. Sprinkle with some more salt and pepper.
7. Roast for another 10 minutes or until they reach your desired coloring. I like mine darker. The husband likes his golden. It’s a constant source of contention between us.
8. Use a slotted spatula to lift off each potato into a serving dish, leaving the excess oil behind. Cram them in your mouth, preferably with some sort of meat jus.