Last week we got together with some friends for a “top your own potato” party that was inspired by a recent post on The Kitchn. Highly recommended. Everybody took the meal at their own pace by choosing either a baked sweet or russet potato and some toppings that included Pulled Barbecue Chicken, cheese, butter and sour cream. Mmmmm.
We baked enough potatoes to feed a crowd with spuds to spare. In thinking about how to use the two sweet potatoes and one russet we found in the refrigerator the next day I remembered an episode of Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals where he made Piri Piri chicken and dressed potatoes, the potatoes being a side-dish that was a mixture of baked sweet and white potatoes roughly mashed together on a large wooden cutting board and dressed with lemon juice, chopped cilantro, sliced chilies and chunks of feta cheese. I’ve made and re-interpreted that dish a number of times — there is something really magical about combining sweet and white potatoes. I took another go at it with our leftovers and other ingredients we had on hand and was really excited about the empty plates at the end of the meal.
We made this particular version of smashed potatoes, as I said, with refrigerated leftover baked potatoes, but you could obviously start by baking your potatoes and then just moving on to the smashing part after they have cooled a little.
And my own two cents about “smashed” vs. “mashed.” The former implies something rustic and rough; the latter, something more homogenous and uniform. I rather like rustic in this case — large and small chunks of white potatoes mixed in with the creamier and softer sweet potatoes, pockets of goat cheese melting into them, and a mix of herbs scattered throughout. Not too fussy. That makes for a great kids’ dinner that you really can’t mess up.
Here’s what went into our most recent version of this dish:
Smashed Sweet and Russet Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Herbs
2 large sweet potatoes, washed and pricked several times with a sharp knife or fork
1 large russet potato, washed and pricked several times with a sharp knife or fork
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
2 ounces fresh goat cheese (chèvre)
Several generous pinches of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Begin by baking the potatoes in a 375 degree oven for 90 minutes. You may want to wrap the potatoes in foil or place a baking sheet under them because the sweet potatoes, especially, will ooze some of their sticky sugar during baking. The skins will not be as crisp if you wrap them though. Your choice. Remove from the oven when finished and cool, removing foil when cool enough to handle if you’ve used it.
Roughly crush the potatoes, with skins on, on a cutting board. This does not need to be a homogenous mush – it should have large and small chunks of white potato along with the softer sweet potato.
Heat a large (preferably non-stick) skillet over medium high heat and add the butter and oil. When hot, add the smashed potatoes. Allow to brown slightly for additional texture and flavor, flipping them in the pan occasionally. When ready, crumble the cheese as best you can over the potatoes, breaking it into smaller chunks with your fingers as you add it. It will be moist but try to get as much onto the potatoes, and off your fingers, as you can. Add the herbs, several pinches of salt and grinds of pepper and mix everything together. Serve.
Serves: 4 (and can be easily doubled or tripled to feed a crowd)
Parent rating: Five stars. I also like that this dish can be re-interpreted and mixed up every time you make it. Add the herbs you have on hand with a complementary cheese (aged cheddar, feta, even a smoked gouda would be good). Squeeze in a little citrus (lemon/lime) or some freshly-grated lemon or orange rind for a brighter taste. I love Jamie’s suggestion of adding a spicy chili pepper, cut into thin rings or finely diced. As we were having this my husband and I commented that some diced jalapeño would be really good in the dish…but I’m not sure the girls would have appreciated it.
Kid rating: Four stars. Two clean plates speak for themselves. Daughter 1 loved this dish and had seconds. Daughter 2 is a little more skeptical of sweet potatoes (go figure) but, since they were mixed with chunks of white potato and cheese, seemed to enjoy what was served to her. Confession: I dished theirs before adding the herbs, so no complaints about “green things in their food.” We’re working up to that!