Monday, November 14, 2011

Starchy Joy

Tumbling down from the Andes Mountains a potent, starchy tuber conquered the world’s kitchen. Potatoes seemed to be universally embraced and has taken on a myriad of incarnations: the ubiquitous North American Idaho, the elegant French fingering and plump German butterball can all be found in farmer’s markets now that the weather has turned. Of course, all who know me know that I hunt for the papa amarilla this time of year. It is an Andean variety that is creamy, rich and I swear it tastes like chicken! Unfortunately, now that I have gotten everyone excited good luck finding it for it is rare here in the northern hemisphere. With a few thousand varieties of this humble tuber grown throughout the world you are encourage to try more than a russet.

I use the rule of thumb that if this skin is rough to the touch it is probably a starchier potato more apt to be fried, mashed or made into a galette, while I tend to use the waxy, or smooth skinned varieties for soups, roasts and sautés. I rarely peel the potato only if the earthy flavor of the jacket will run interference with my desired outcome – a large quantity of its nutritional value lies on this outer surface. The only steadfast rule when working with potatoes is never put them in your food processor, well unless you are looking to make potato glue. If you need to use a “machine” the paddle attachment of a standing mixture will quickly give you a mash or, a stick blender can be inserted in a simmering broth to thicken it. Then sometimes, simply baked finished with a smear of butter and sprinkle of coarse sea salt is all that is needed. 

Onion and Chirizo Soup – yields 8
1pound chirzo sausage - diced
1-tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds onion (approximately 3 medium sized) – sliced very thin
3 pounds Yukon potato – peeled and diced in 1/2-inch pieces
6 garlic cloves – minced
2-teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
4 quarts of chicken stock
1-tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4-cup Sherry vinegar

Heat a 8-quart pot heat over a medium flame, and add the chirzo. Cook until the chrizo browns and releases its fat. Remove the chirzo, and drain off the excess oil. Add the oil, and onion cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add back in the chirzo, along with the potatoes, garlic, thyme and stock. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the flame to a simmer. Cook the soup for 1 hour or more, then add the vinegar and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve.

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