Maine’s iconic harvest is in; time to put it to use in delicious recipes that don’t break the calorie bank.
Consider the humble spud, nature’s gift in root vegetable form. In recent years potatoes have gotten a bad rep with the low-carb crowd, but in moderation and absent mounds of butter, sour cream or deep frying, potatoes can be a healthy part of a balanced diet.
Whether you’re a fan of russets, fingerlings, red, Yukon Gold, or any of the many other varieties, potatoes are a staple in most American homes, and for good reason. In addition to being inexpensive, a medium-sized baked potato is high in fiber, low in fat and is rich in vitamins C and B, as well as potassium. (Botanically speaking, while considered a vegetable, potatoes, or Solanum tuberosum, are part of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, related to tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.)
The beauty of potatoes is their almost endless versatility. Wrap them in foil and throw them on a bed of coals in a campfire and you have the start of a meal. Boil potatoes along with corn, sausage, shellfish and a few spices for a classic New England seafood boil. You can roast, bake, mash or fry them and have a different potato dish for every day of the year.
As a comfort food staple, potatoes are superstars. What would Thanksgiving be without mashed potatoes and turkey gravy? A burger with no fries is positively un-American. Eggs over easy without a side of crispy hash browns? That just isn’t right.
My long-standing love affair with potatoes was stymied for a time; I avoided them because of the calories and fat that came with frying or mashing. Even potato salad, a summer staple in my family, relied on mayonnaise for authenticity. But necessity being the mother of invention, and new recipes, I searched for ways to enjoy healthier versions of old favorites. Here are two of my favorites.
⇓ SIMPLY PERFECT HASSELBACK POTATOES
Hasselback potatoes were first served at Hasselbacken, a restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1953. They’ve been a staple in Europe since then and in the past few years have made their way into the hearts of Americans, too (in Portland, Scales serves a beautiful version). They are a perfect foil for additions like cheese, bacon, aioli or pesto. But I love them because they are practically perfect when prepared with just salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
HERE’S HOW I PREPARE MINE.
Preheat oven to 400˚.
Prepare one potato per person. Scrub potatoes and pat dry. I like to use Russet, but Yukon Gold work well, too.
Place the potato on a cutting board on top of two chopsticks. The chopsticks will stop the knife from cutting the slices all the way through the potato.
Slice down to the chopstick guides along the entire length of the potato, each slice about 1/8-inch thick.
Place potatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper generously.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Take the potatoes out and separate the slices with a knife. Drizzle a bit more olive oil and put back in the oven.
Bake for another 30 minutes. Take potatoes out again and baste them with the olive oil that has run off the potatoes. Then back in the oven.
Check the potatoes every 15 minutes until the edges are crispy and golden, usually about 30 minutes more.
You can serve with a side of aioli for dipping, or a sprinkle of cheddar (put back in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese), but these Hasselback are delicious at their most basic.
⇓ MARYLAND CRAB POTATO SALAD
This recipe is 100% vegetarian; no crabs were harmed in the making of this dish. The Maryland crab refers to the secret ingredient—Old Bay—the seasoning that has given Maryland blue crabs their distinctive regional flavor since 1939. The Old Bay adds a flavorful kick to this colorful and tasty recipe. Unlike potato salads dressed with mayonnaise, this salad is best served at room temperature and can travel to picnics or potlucks without refrigeration or chilling.
2 pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup corn kernels, from the cob or frozen
2 cups Utz Crab Chips (available online), or Cape Cod Salt & Vinegar Chips (chips are optional)
3 tablespoons finely chopped (or snipped with kitchen scissors) chives
Salt and pepper to taste
Cover potatoes with water by 1 inch in a large pot. Season generously with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until tender, but still firm, 10–15 minutes. Drain and let cool.
In a medium skillet heat olive oil. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft.
In a large serving bowl combine onions, vinegar, mustard, Old Bay and a generous amount of pepper.
Add potatoes, and chives and toss to combine. Once tossed, if you’re so inclined you can add chips to bring the crunch.
Taste and season with salt and black pepper if needed. Add a drizzle of olive oil immediately before serving.
POTATO PRO TIPS
- Leftover Hasselback potatoes are cause for celebration at my house. Reheat them in the toaster oven and top them with a fried egg for a little taste of breakfast nirvana.
- If you are counting carbs and want to up the veggies in the Maryland Crab salad, you can reduce the potatoes to 1 pound and add 4 cups of cauliflower florets cut into bite-sized pieces and steamed until just tender.