When I made my living in kitchens I used to wake myself up in the middle of the night with the residual scent of onions and thyme, once delicious sauteing on the stovetop, accosting my dreams. At first it was nearly sensual, like how your upper lip smells of your kissing partner long after they've gone home. But before long (much to the aggrieved heart in its longing!) their perfume fades away and you're left with yourself, ready for bed and in need of a toothbrush. The slippery smoke of cooking food marches to a different drum; it creeps into your ears, clings under your nailbeds and sets up permanent camp in the metallic pores of any jewelry you may have forgotten to remove prior to handling garlic. And if you're cooking in your own home, the fumes will sneak into the cupboards and nestle into curtain folds, lingering after the dishes are washed and the feet are propped.
Among the many ways to mitigate a meal's clinging scent (running around with a burning piece of newspaper or simmering water and cinnamon on the stove), the best way may be to simply tie your hair back, open a window and let it wash over you -- like winter, it won't last forever. MFK Fisher (once again) nails it: "...you can broil the meat, fry the onions, stew the garlic in the red wine...and ask me to supper. I'll not care, really, even if your nose is a little shiny, so long as you are self-possessed and...your mind is your own and your heart is another's and therefore in the right place."
Lemon Roasted Potatoes with Garlic
inspired by Flora Maranka
One of the many things I do miss about working in the kitchen is my friend Flora. She's read almost every book in the world and has a sense of humor that has left me doubled over in a fit of laughter at least five dozen times. She is one of the founding mothers of the Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca, NY and has a cool sensibility about food that has inspired me time and time again. Amy and I learned this recipe from her and are indebted to her (in a calm, collected way).
a pot of boiling salted water
6 medium potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
5 T olive oil
1 t sea salt
4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
the juice of one lemon (about 2 T worth)
1/4 c water
some sort of chopped green herb for garnish (optional)
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cut the potatoes lengthwise in half and then lengthwise in thirds again so that the potato is cut into six pieces. The uniformity of shape and size is important for even cooking and is a simple technique to get under your belt for the future.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Add the potatoes to the boiling water for about 5 minutes -- this will create a starch coating around the outside which will bind to the oil and crisp up gloriously in the oven. Drain the potatoes totally and toss with 1 t salt and olive oil.
In a pan or cast iron skillet large enough, arrange the potatoes in a single layer, cover with foil and it all in the oven. After about twenty minutes, remove the foil and let the potatoes keep cooking for about twenty five minutes more or until their undersides are crisping and beginning to brown.
Pull the pan/skillet out of the oven and add the garlic, lemon juice and water. Gently fold the potatoes into the mixture so they are bathed in the liquid and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, place in a serving bowl and garnish with chopped herbs if you so wish. Serve alongside a green salad, grilled fish or meat or with a poached egg.
Yields: a side dish for 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, mostly unattended