Life is full of so many simultaneous opposites, and my summer has been filled with them. Peaceful paddling down the Flathead River in Glacier National Park. Jumping a rock and flipping my kayak in white water. Hanging out with old comforting friends. Growing friendships with new friends. Old, new. Familiar, un-familiar. Weakness, strength. Fearful, courageous. The big C has been in my life for the past four years, but until recently, has been on the back burner. If you’ve had cancer or another chronic illness, you know it’s always there in the back of your mind, even if it’s not in full view (you can read my cancer story here). As a friend put it at my First Descents program, “cancer free” always comes with an asterisk that stays in the corner of your mind. In the past year, the little bugger has taken center stage once again.
When you were younger, did you ever use watercolors to paint a coffee filter? You couldn’t control the shape or border of the paint any more than you could control the clouds. When you have cancer, the coffee filter is your life. The colors move before your eyes, some intended and expected, and others, seemingly clashy and unintended. There are two possible reactions. Freak out, or accept your life for the beautifully flawed whole picture.
What in the world does this have to do with potatoes? I feel like the things I do in the kitchen and on the blog are so closely tied to what’s happening in my life. I needed to express what has been on my mind, because: a), I’d feel funny about writing about potatoes when I really feel the need to share what I’ve been going through, b) You may be able to relate to my story, and c), there really is a connection between my roasted potatoes, cancer, and life’s opposites.
Some meals in the kitchen are built out of experimentation and a spirit of discovering new flavor combinations. Other times, such as in recent days, I need the comfort of old standbys, tried and true dishes born when my creative energy was flowing a little more freely. When life feels out of control, I find comfort in knowing exactly how the dish will come together. I know that I can visit the small organic produce stand at the farmers market and buy fingerling potatoes from the lady with the european accent. I know that I’ll be in my kitchen, Luca flopped down frog-dog style, watching me halve potatoes with my favorite knife. I know that I’ll go out to the garden to pick a couple sprigs of rosemary. I’ll hear the satisfying glug glug of the olive oil drizzling over the potatoes. I’ll press garlic, scatter salt and pepper, and get my hands dirty tossing it all together. I know exactly what it will smell like when the potatoes are just perfect–deep golden brown on the bottom, and crisp like a thick cut potato chip, tender and smooth on the inside with a wrinkly salted peel on top.
I hope that my old and familiar can become part of your comfortable kitchen repertoire! Here’s to health, facing challenges, roasted potatoes, and life’s many opposites!
Rosemary Garlic Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
These may seem simple, but the combination of cooking the potatoes at a higher temperature without flipping them during the cooking process creates a completely different end product than your typical roasted potato. When the potatoes first emerge from the oven, the flat ends will give a satisfying crunch when you bite into them. I suggest leaving the potatoes on the pan until ready to serve. When they leave the hot pan, they steam themselves from the inside out, making the crispy ends still delightfully roasty, but less crispy. Use this technique to improvise to your heart’s delight. As long as you use the oil and the cooking time recommended, you can use any number of ingredients– herbs, spices, mustards, zests, or anything else you can think of.
- 2 pounds fingerling or baby potatoes, halved
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon
- black pepper to taste, about 1 teaspoon
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, from about 2 sprigs
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
Preheat oven to 425˚F. In a large bowl, mix the potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic with your hands. Dig deep into the bowl to scoop up the oily bits left at the bottom, and massage them into the potatoes to thoroughly coat.
Place the potatoes in a single layer, face down, on two baking sheets. Roast them in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the tops are wrinkly and the cut ends are a deep golden brown. Keep on the pan until ready to serve. To remove the potatoes from the pan, use a scraping motion with a wooden spatula (or other firm spatula)–the potatoes should pop right off the pan. Serve while hot, straight from the baking sheet.