From somewhere, (though it continues to elude my periodical searches in the multitude of cookbooks here), is this recipe for Sicilian Potatoes. It’s been altered, of course, along the way, to what extent I’m not even sure. I think it initially called for frying. It’s at least a couple of decades since I started making them. I’d love to credit the original author, so if these sound familiar to you, and they bring to mind a source, please let me know.
It’s simple, with a caveat: it helps to have a ‘ricer’ which is a tool for pressing the cooked potatoes, giving them a rice-like shape and a lighter texture than mashing. Mine cost about $10 which isn’t bad, but not everyone wants such a thing taking up precious cupboard space. Go ahead and mash them if that’s your preference. They’ll be not quite as good, but still worth it.
The caramelized oranges provide the Midas touch, connecting with the burnt sugar latency underlying the potato’s own starchy persona. This gets reinforced with the slight browning of the onions. The results are bittersweet and aromatic, and I’m wondering if this might be the meaning of umami. It’s certainly the meaning of nirvana in my flavor thesaurus.
Their protean nature enables them to play a wide range of roles. As a side for brisket, chicken, or fish, they can’t be beat. They could steal the show as a soup, and I’ve a good mind to put the blender to them for a Sicilian Vichysoisse. With Hannukah just around the corner, how about low-fat Baked Sicilian Latkes with a quince and blood orange compote? And they are perfectly capable as an hors d’oeuvre, forming an enclosure for all kinds of trinkets: spiced olives, roasted peppers, rapini and garlic, mozzarella, spinach and mushrooms…..
Further permutations are possible when stuffing, with influences from other national cuisines..… Mexican (chili), Indian (curried chickpeas), Norwegian (herring or smoked salmon), German (sauerkraut and sausage), French (eggplant and goat cheese), Japanese (seaweed and bean curd), Thai (coriander, chili, and peanut).
But before we get too carried away by these visions, here’s the basic version……
Recipe: Sicilian Potatoes
2 ½ to 3 lbs. potatoes
½ large orange, not peeled, sliced
4 shallots, minced, or substitute 8 scallions
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
about 1/3 cup olive oil for brushing
Wash, peel and halve (or quarter, depending on size) the potatoes. Steam or boil until tender but not overly so…perhaps 20 min.
In the meantime, put 2 Tbsp oil in a heavy skillet over med. to med-high heat. When hot, add orange slices.
In a small skillet, put 1 Tbsp oil over med. heat. When hot, add shallots or scallions. Stir, cover, and cook for about 5 min. Turn off heat.
When oranges are browned on one side, flip and brown other side.
Let oranges cool a bit. Mince them, one slice at a time, into very small pieces.
When potatoes are cooked, put them through the ricer, or press with a masher. Mix in the onions and oranges, salt and pepper, distributing evenly.
This can all be done up to this point in advance, for a day or two, if that makes it more convenient. Just be sure to seal properly and refrigerate.
When ready to roast, form the potatoes into balls, patties, or, as I like to do, into pyramids.
Brush with olive oil, place on baking sheet, and put into 400 degree oven for 15 min., or until golden-browned.
Makes about 18.