My dear readers, if you have high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, or a high fear of foods that might contribute to either of those, please stop reading now. But frankly, after two salad posts in a row, I felt it was high time we had ourselves a treat. Not the sweet kind, mind you, but the savory, salty and buttery kind. The kind of treat that turns forks into weapons as those gathered around the table vie for the last few bites.
I've always had a thing for salty, and I'd prefer seconds at dinner to dessert, or popcorn to ice cream any day...and oh, these these tender nuggets certainly fall into that category! Boiled in brine and then bathed in a pool of glistening herb butter, these salt potatoes are utter bliss. One bite and I was hooked--their skin is not quite crisp, but almost dry and and papery and definitely well seasoned with salt. It cracked slightly when I split it open to reveal the most tender and fluffy interior you can imagine. Each forkful, dragged through a puddle of butter, caused much moaning and eye-rolling and contented sighing at the table. Okay, mostly that came from me, but everyone loved these potatoes, I assure you.
When I read the recipe, originally in Local Flavors by Deborah Madison, I was taken aback by the huge amount of salt that was called for. But when I read more about the science behind salt potatoes, it made perfect sense. The high salt content in the water causes the boiling temperature to be increased, which gives these potatoes their unique shell and moist interior. Notice the salt flakes forming on my pot handle...and all that delicious butter?
Very common today in upstate New York, the recipe originated with 19th century Irish workers at the salt flats, who threw small potatoes into the brine as they boiled off the salt. During late summer, it is not unusual to see bags of "salt potatoes" sold with bags of sea salt for the cooking water. I used small, yellow creamers in this recipe, but any baby, thin-skinned potato would work well.
1 pound creamer or other new potatoes
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups coarse sea salt
4 T butter
1 T mixed fresh herbs, chopped
Bring water and salt to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until they are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Drain. Melt butter. Mix in herbs and toss gently with potatoes. Serve hot...with lots of napkins.