I've had this old photograph in my collection for decades, marveling at how striking they are together, the tall brunette and the petite blonde.
They complement each other, I believe.
complement: combining in such a way as to
enhance or emphasize the qualities of
each other or another
And here's where I blatantly segue to the plebeian potato because nothing, absolutely nothing--not rice or cauliflower or couscous--complements as many entrees as a potato does.
Take ham, for instance.
[my current favorite ham recipe is from Billy Allin,
chef-owner of Cakes and Ale,
from Garden & Gun]
What goes perfectly with ham? Potato Salad!
"There is no such thing as really bad potato salad.
So long as the potatoes are not undercooked,
it all tastes pretty good to me."
Potato salad is my hands down favorite pairing with ham--but only if it's homemade. I don't know what they put in store-bought potato salads to make them so awful but it's a crying shame.
My favorite potato salad recipe is based on a recipe from Southern Memories by Nathalie Dupree where the difference is in the technique--do not add mayonnaise until the next day! Pour equal amounts of olive oil and the best apple cider vinegar you can find over the cooked, cut potatoes while they're still hot, combined with chopped celery and onions, salt, pepper and celery salt and chill in the fridge overnight. The next day you add the mayonnaise and a couple tablespoons of sour cream if you want. Nathalie didn't call for this but I add a dozen chopped hardboiled eggs the next day too (to 5 pounds of cooked potatoes), along with sliced olives.
With lots of chopped celery and onions and the eggs, I believe you cover all the basic food groups and so it becomes a healthy dish--that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
What's easier with fish than a baked potato?
I am a fish lover, especially wild caught Alaskan salmon and halibut, and fresh caught flounder, but I do love, even crave, fresh rainbow trout. It's a food memory that goes back to childhood where I always ordered it when Daddy took us out to eat at a nice (starched white tablecloth nice) restaurant, at first because he ordered it but then because I loved it.
Daddy liked it because he first tasted it cooked over a wood fire by a Carolina trout stream with his new grandfather-in-law. My great-grandfather didn't believe in sleeping in tents. Instead you slept on pine needles pushed together under the trees.
And when Grandpa told you to sleep on the ground, you slept on the ground. After all, in his heyday he was once a sheriff and a revenuer. Oh, the tales he told my father back when they were fishing buddies! But that's for another time.
Most of the time I prefer trout prepared simply with butter and lemon and chopped fresh parsley on top, but I served the rainbow trout above with a special sauce that's so good I can eat it by itself, something you can tell by the amount I dipped on top of my trout.
Basically, from a recipe in my files that was probably from Bon Appetit, you fry some bacon, remove from pan and take out most of the bacon drippings, sauté 2 cups chopped red onion in the drippings, stir in 1/2 cup of golden raisins, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and a scant tablespoon of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and bring to boil until reduced some, about a minute or two. Stir in bits of crumbled bacon and keep warm until serving on top of the trout you've broiled.
And who can resist a twice baked potato? Not I.
Here's a link to the Pioneer Woman's recipe.
When we had a big group of family here a month or so ago I fixed Eugene Walter's recipe for oven-fried chicken, which is an easy way to serve chicken to a crowd when the weather's too bad to grill out.
Eugene Walter's Oven-fried Chicken from American Cooking: Southern Style, 1971.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sprinkle salt, paprika and freshly ground black pepper on all sides of chicken pieces.
Put pieces in baking pan and scatter bits of butter evenly.
Cover the pan securely with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (for a large amount of chicken I cook them covered for 30-45 minutes).
Remove foil, raise oven temperature to 450 degrees and bake undisturbed for 30 minutes longer. (I love the "undisturbed" part and would never disturb my chicken.)
Turn chicken over with tongs, sprinkle with more bits of butter and bake uncovered for an additional 30 minutes.
With it I served Ruth Reichl's Crisp, Lemony Baby Potatoes,
recipe here. Extraordinary!
It should go without saying that almost any way of preparing beef is paired beautifully with potatoes. For our family, roast beef calls for potatoes, carrots and onions roasted in the broth with the roast. I do serve mashed potatoes when I make my Beer Braised Roast Beef but couldn't find a picture of that dish.
Speaking of mashed potatoes, cook extra for mashed potato patties the next day, pure comfort food!
[Mix 2 cups mashed potatoes with 1 cup milk, 4 beaten egg yolks, 1 cup plus a little extra of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, salt to taste and some chopped scallions and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Beat the 4 egg whites until stiff and fold in. Cook patties in melted hot butter and serve hot.]
I could go on and on about potatoes, haven't even mentioned French fries. For a really good recipe for oven fries try this
Cook's Illustrated version.
I'd better stop now and instead think about what to put with an entree and potatoes. Unlimited possibilities exist but something green always complements them. And since it's so important to cook seasonally, there's not much better in springtime than asparagus.
RH and I prefer asparagus roasted for only 5 minutes, simply in olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic and seasonings. And pencil thin if possible.
So there we have the plebeian potato, queen of tubers, that complements so many entrees, despite what M. F. K. Fisher writes:
"If, French fried, they make a grilled sirloin of beef taste richer; if, mashed and whipped with fresh cream and salty butter, they bridge the deadly gap between a ragout and a salad; if, baked and pinched open and bulging with mealy snowiness, they offset the fat spiced flavor of a pile of sausages--then and then alone should they be served."
While I adore M. F. K. Fisher, read her religiously, believe she's just as relevant today as when she wrote her unmatchable food prose, I do think she limited the poor potato with her three choices. But that's okay, I'd still rather have eaten one of her meals sitting in her kitchen than dining at any four-star restaurant.
But she really should have tasted my potato salad and ham.
"Although few realize it,
to be complementary is in itself a compliment.
It is a subtle pleasure,
like the small exaltation of a beautiful dark woman
who finds herself unexpectedly in the company
of an equally beautiful blonde."
M. F. K. Fisher from Serve It Forth