Spring and warm weather and the growing season can’t be far away, even though we’ve just had 10 inches of snow. Two recurrent and interconnected issues we have to deal with are water and watering, and critters of all kinds. Simply keeping buried pipes open, drip lines functional, and trees, shrubs, and gardens watered keeps us busy. Squirrels, voles and gophers wreak havoc on anything resembling a water source. Little bitty holes everywhere.
Frogs hibernate in any open pipe near water, clogging lines. We spent several hours just a few days ago, with a plumber’s snake, fishing a whole nest of baby frogs out of the pipe that takes water from our spring down to the pond. Birds try to nest at the ends of the wheel lines in the fields; if the covers haven’t come off, they try to peck them off. And this year, we’ve had to fence and gate against the wild horses. Lovely as some of them are, they can’t help messing up wherever they take up residence. They’ve not been a problem in Washoe Valley except for the last few years. There are way too many of them for the available food and water.
One of the kitchen chores this time of year is to use up all the vegetables we grew last summer and that won’t hold much longer. Onions, potatoes, and winter squash will go bad or start to sprout if we don’t make use of them. The recipe this week, for a potato side dish, uses any potato, except russets (the big Idaho bakers). I prefer Red Norlands, Yukon Golds or German Butterballs for this recipe, which is almost not a recipe per se, just an easy and different way to prepare the lowly potato.
I’ve absolutely no clue why this dish has the name “man potatoes” except to say I’ve never met a man who didn’t like these. I’ve been preparing potatoes this way since the mid-1960s in Boulder, Colo., when I shared studio space with another potter, who taught me this method.
One large (about 8-ounce) red, Yukon gold or German butterball potato per person
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Flour for coating
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees and butter a baking/serving dish large enough to hold all the potatoes, overlapping but not stacked.
Wash, but don’t peel, the potatoes. Slice them in 1/2-inch slices (save the ends for another use if desired).
Fill a small bowl with flour and dip each slice in flour, both sides. Set aside.
Melt equal parts butter and olive oil (about 2 tablespoons each) together in a heavy frying pan (I prefer cast iron). You may need more oil and butter if you have several loads of potatoes.
Saute potato slices, flipping to brown each side — this will take about 10 minutes. When browned, layer the slices attractively in an ovenproof baking/serving dish. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add a small amount of hot water to the dish. Don’t cover. Bake until soft, about 20 minutes. They’ll puff up somewhat. Serve from the pan. If there are leftovers, cut up in irregular pieces and fry up for breakfast.
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.