Snakes and Maggots Couldn’t Drive Me Away: Roasted Potatoes

A lot more than she bargained for

A lot more than she bargained for

WARNING: THIS POST ISN’T REALLY ABOUT THE RECIPE.

There’s a story today on Yahoo! about some woman who found a snake, yep, snake, in a bag of potatoes she purchased at Walmart.

This got me thinking about the unwanteds I have found in foods over the past 100 years. I had an infestation of small brownish bugs in my kitchen once – by once I mean for about 2 weeks a year for 3 years I would find them creepy crawling up my cabinets or sneaking around in my breadcrumbs…eww. Blamed the flowers a male suitor had sent me. Anyone who has ever dated me since knows never to send me flowers. Take note.

sidney place brooklyn heights potatoes roasted

26 Sidney Place

When I first moved to NYC and my age was my salary – which we all thought was pretty cool at the time – I lived with about 1,000 other kids in an amazing brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. I didn’t really cook, and by ‘really’, I mean not at all. So, many nights I existed on fried rice from the local Chinese place on Montague Street – $4.75 and I could make it last for three meals.

Sure, I dabbled. There were tuna melts, grilled cheese and Raman noodle nights (I could fry stuff and boil water!). But, mostly when I didn’t have any left over fried rice, dinner was cold cereal. That’s right, ‘ready-to-eat’ cereal that we would purchase at the bodega between the Borough Hall Subway Stop and our house.

One night, my roommate/ BFF and I were walking home together – a rarity as she was an I-banker (read, worked late and made a lot more money) and I was in publishing (read, left work between 5 – 6pm and, well, we already discussed my salary). We stopped at the bodega to get some ‘dinner’. Jane, as she prefers to be called these days, selected a lovely box of Raisin Bran. I…it doesn’t matter what I got – the story is about her cereal.

Anyhoo, we trekked home, poured our cereals into bowls and topped with milk. We were hungry – growing girls – and stood together in the kitchen, shoveling it in. At about bite three, Jane started frothing at the mouth…literally spitting the tasty bran and raisins back in to the bowl.

‘What!’ I shrieked ‘Are you doing?’

She slammed the bowl on to the kitchen counter, continued spitting, wiping her tongue with a paper towel and just pointed her shaking finger at the bowl.

So…I looked….Still wish I hadn’t…But, I looked. How could I not? And, there it was…the cereal was….uhmmmm…moving. Yeah….Her cereal was moving. Like totally moving. Like horror movie moving.

I looked more closely and the cereal was alive with maggots. Still makes me shiver. Haven’t eaten raisin bran since…OK, no big sacrifice cuz this blogger hates the raisins. But, still…uhmmmm…ewww.

Roasted Potatoes Recipe food

Uhmmmm…EWWWW

So, after what I went through with the maggots and then with the floral delivery bug invasion…you might think that the Walmart-Snake-in-the-Potatoes story might scare me off of a starchy potato treat. Au contraire…It would take a truck load of maggots to move me off of potatoes.

Here is my go-to simple, crowd-pleasing, snake and maggot-free roasted potato side dish.

Soup Packet Roasted Potatoes (Serves 4-6)

Tiny apartment tips:

  1. Buy tiny potatoes – not just because they’re tiny like your kitchen, but because they cook more quickly, they’re cute and mostly because you don’t have to peel them or do much chopping
  2. When you buy the french onion soup mix – Lipton, of course – take the packets out of the box and store upright in a cabinet – the box takes up too much space.
  3. No…you can’t make these ahead of time. So, stop asking 🙂
  4. Heed the Parchment Paper lining tip – or you will ruin your baking pan

Ingredients

  • lipton soup dinner recipe side dish vegetarian

    Side Dishes Don’t Have To Be Difficult

    Like a pound of small potatoes – new potatoes or purple potatoes are good or if you’re fancy those bags with the three colors of potatoes…maybe not Yukon gold potatoes – they’re too soft.

  • 1/3 Cup of Olive Oil – IG would say ‘really good olive oil’
  • 1 Packet of Dry Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 TSP of Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt

Preheat oven to 425…or 450 doesn’t really matter

(I wish this was more difficult…but, like deciding to eat or not eat maggots…it’s not – I did warn you that this post wasn’t about the dish)

1. Wash the potatoes

roasted new potatoes dinner vegetarian

I might have chopped first and washed second…whatever. It’s all good

2. Quarter or halve the potatoes – you want bite size pieces – so depends on how big the taters you bought are

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the packet of french onion soup, Krazy Mixed Up Salt and Olive Oil

4. Pour the potatoes in to a Ziplock baggie – gallon style. Pour the olive oil mixture over the potatoes in the baggie

french onion soup lipton roasted potatoes recipe

Taters covered in EVOO and soup mix

6. Zip the bag…mix it around – with your hands move the contents –  making sure you cover all of the potatoes

7. Line a rimmed baking dish with parchment paper

8. Pour the potato, french onion soup / olive oil mix on to the lined baking dish making sure the potatoes are in a single layer

Roasted potatoes side french onion soup lipton dinner vegetarian

Single Layer! Very Important!

9. Put in the oven and bake for :45 – :60 minutes tossing a few times during the cooking process. Cooking time depends on how crispy you like ’em.

10. Serve immediately

roasted potatoes lipton soup side dish vegetarian

Piping Hot, Crisped And Ready

I like my potatoes crispy. My favorite late night fry is the one that is actually void of any potato flesh. Truth.

I like potatoes. Is there a support group for that? Even though there was APPARENTLY a smallish snake in one particular package at one particular Walmart – I will continue to eat the potatoes. I might even buy them at Walmart. When it comes to potatoes – even maggots couldn’t drive me away.

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Care to Prepare For Those Who Don’t Share: Individual Potatoes Au Gratin

potatoes au gratin recipe melissa d'arabian

Farmer’s Market Russet Potatoes

A wise five year-old once told me that ‘sharing is caring.’ OK, maybe he heard that somewhere, but it was wise nonetheless. Seems like a pretty good and simple message.

When it comes to food, however, we’re not always great sharers. My loyal reader(s) know that I have an irrational fear of starving to death. No reason I should feel this way, but I get nervous when food is presented and meant to be shared that I won’t get enough…and that I will immediately starve and die.

Shun Lee West NYC

Shun Lee West Love

My friends and I were all out at Shun Lee a while ago – ok, it was in the ’90’s – and even though the old school waiters at Shun Lee plate each diner’s portion, two of our dinner group refused to share. Actually, and you know who you are, they announced what they would like from the menu followed by ‘and we’re not sharing‘. OK, good to know this up front. And, to be honest, I respected it.

Growing up, it wasn’t unusual to see someone else’s fork wander over to my plate and steal a piece of whatever it was that we were eating. Coming up with clever ways to distract a family member while grabbing food from his/her plate became yet another family competition. So…maybe my fear isn’t totally irrational.

So, as a matter of survival, I love to serve individual portions of traditionally casserole created meals. And, apparently, so does Melissa D’Arabian.

Individual Potatoes Au Gratin adapted from Melissa D’Arabian (Serves 6)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  • If your space provides for either cupcake OR Texas tins…opt for cupcake tins. Popovers and these individual potatoes au gratin will be fine in the smaller tins
  • While slicing your potatoes on a Mandolin will, indeed, make each potato slice uniformly thick…you might not have room for this kitchen equipment…plus, having personally lost the tip of a finger, I can tell you that the mandolin is just too risky. Use a sharp knife, you’ll be fine.
  • MA’s recipe calls for heavy cream…but, really, you can use anywhere from 2% to whole milk and it’ll work out. This way you don’t need to overstock on dairy

Ingredients:

  • melissa d'arabian potatoes au gratin

    She knows not to share

    3 large Russet Potatoes, peeled and sliced thin

  • 1/2 cup of Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup of Shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 12 TBSPs whole milk or 2% or cream
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh Chives
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Tons of non-stick cooking spray

Preheat Oven to 375 Degrees

1. Wash and Peel the potatoes and slice as thinly as possible. Put the slices in a bowl of water with ice cubes to keep them from browning. You can do this hours ahead of time and store in the fridge to save counter space needed to prepare the rest of your feast.

potatoes au gratin individual

Immersing the slices in water to keep from browning

2. Spray your non-stick cupcake OR Texas tins with a ton, like a ton, of non-stick cooking spray. Yes, I’ve used butter…but, the spray works better here

3. Place a slice of potato (cut to fit if necessary) in the base of each pan well

4. Layer some cheddar cheese on top – about a tsp or so

5. Place another slice of potato on top of the cheddar

6. Layer on some Swiss cheese

7. Place another slice of potato on top of the Swiss

8. Repeat until each cupcake or muffin well is well-filled and end with a potato slice. Don’t be afraid to slightly overfill, the potatoes will shrink and the cheese will melt during cooking

individual potatoes au gratin melissa d'arabian

Oven Ready Sides for One

9. Drizzle about 1 TBSP of milk or cream over each potato-cheese-filled well

10. Throw some chives onto each

11. Add salt and pepper

12. Tent with tin foil and bake for :20mins

13. Remove tin foil and bake an additional :20mins

14. Remove from oven and use a spoon to flip the potatoes au gratin over and on to a serving tray. You’ll know the gratins are done when the edges are well browned.

au gratin potatoes in cupcake tins recipe

Not so Rotten Au Gratin

15. Don’t share

Sharing might be caring…But caring might be preparing for those who aren’t sharing.