When I emailed my family and friends a few weeks ago, asking them for their food and fond memories of my grandmother, almost all of them mentioned these potatoes. Which is funny because, while I remember these potatoes fondly, I don’t remember them being as amazing as everyone else does. It was one of Grandma’s standby sides, however, and they are pretty easy. I’m not sure what made them so special except that maybe it was Grandma making them.
Because as I’ve said, it was something about Grandma. She was able to make everyone feel welcome, comfortable and a part of the family. When you sat at her table you felt like you were one of the gang, regardless of which particular gang was present.
Which reminds me of a story via my Uncle P. He had some friends from Canada who were, shall we say, rough. One of them was very big and very tough and very scary-looking. While I can’t remember his name it was something like “Bubba” or “Killer”. For the sake of this story, we will call him Killer. Anyway, P. was living at home but was away for a few days and Killer came to visit.
My grandmother opened the door and was faced with a large, tall, gruff, bearded, tattooed man. He asked for P. and my grandmother replied that he wasn’t there but Killer should come in and wait for him. She showed him into the den and brought him food and asked what kind of beer he wanted. Killer tried to say that he’d just come back later but my grandmother, all five feet of her, insisted. Two days later, my uncle came home and found Killer, still in the den, still eating and drinking beer. He asked him why he hadn’t left and Killer replied, “I would have but I was afraid of your mother!” All five feet of her.
That was Grandma- small, powerful and fiercely loving. She made everyone feel welcome regardless of the color of your skin, the language on your lips or your affiliations, religious, political or otherwise.
So in honor of that, I give you grandma’s unforgettable potatoes. For all I know, she served them to Killer.
small red (new) potatoes, scrubbed and eyes removed
1 onion, thinly chopped
mushrooms, sliced (optional)
salt, pepper, dill (dried or fresh, chopped, about a teaspoon, also optional- I personally hate dill)
Oil- maybe a tablespoon or two- olive or canola would do
Keep in mind that I’m making these from memory as I couldn’t find a written recipe.
Wash and clean your potatoes. (Funny tip, the Hippo uses her fingernails to get all the eyes out. Who knew?)
Put them in a pot and cover them with water. Put it over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let them boil until they are soft but not mushy. You should be able to put a fork in easily but without them falling apart. On my induction burner it took about ten minutes. It may take longer on a gas/electric range.
Meanwhile, chop your onion.
Heat a large, shallow pan over medium high heat. I use a wok. Grandma also used a wok. If you don’t have a wok, then I think a large, shallow pan will do. Add the onions and mushrooms.
Let them cook until they start to brown.
When your potatoes are ready, take them out of the water and let them cool. Slice them in half.
Throw them into the wok (or pan) with the onions and mushrooms. Stir frequently but let them get brown and crispy on the outside.
At this point, season the potatoes with salt, pepper and dill, if you’re using it. Serve alongside whatever you like.
These potatoes are like the perfect mix of crispy and soft. The outside has a slight crunch and the inside is soft and smooth. The onions and mushrooms add a nice flavor and texture to go along with the creamy potatoes. If you like dill, it adds a nice freshness to the dish. Really, you can’t go wrong.