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Mom’s Recipe Box, Potatoes, and Her Cast Iron Skillet

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I have inherited my mom’s recipe box. As I go through it, I find it startling just how similar our idea of what makes a good recipe. That is, a recipe worth clipping out of a magazine or newspaper and worth keeping for years. My recipe box spills over with these clippings; so does hers.

They are recipes that recall my childhood, maybe your childhood as well. They range from old New York Times Magazine recipes by Molly O’Neill, to the ones from utility companies, like Pacific Gas & Electric, which were included in the newsletter that accompanies the monthly bill. We will begin with the following potato recipes. I always wondered who developed the newsletter recipes. Did they have a home economist on staff whose sole purpose it was to come up with recipes that used a lot of fuel to prepare? Was there a set of guidelines that established that no recipe would be acceptable unless it took at least an hour to bake at 350 degrees? Perhaps that is how “Potato Wedges” was born. I remember my mom preparing them several times a week. This is a typical mom recipe. She always had potatoes (bought by the ten pound bag) and a few yellow onions in the house. So easy, so delicious, so inexpensive. I remember her serving them with meat loaf. I prepared them in the same oven that last night’s chicken was roasting in. I plan to prepare them again next week to serve along side a pan-fried steak. I find them most comforting these days.

Potato and Onion Wedges

Ingredients:

1 red onion, peeled and cut into quarters
4 large Russet potatoes, washed, dried, and cut into quarters lengthwise
Canola oil
Seasoned Salt (Schillings Brand)*
Garlic powder*
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together onion, potatoes and enough canola oil to coat well. Sprinkle with plenty of seasoned salt, garlic powder and black pepper. Sprinkle with plenty of seasoned salt, garlic powder and black pepper. Toss and pour onto a large baking sheet. Bake for one hour. Check at 30 minutes to flip over wedges. The potatoes are done when they are slightly puffy and golden. The onions will be a deep caramel color. Yield: 2–3 big servings

*Food Snobs Note: Ingredients like seasoned salt and garlic powder have been around for a long time for a reason. They are tasty and they are convenient. Just think of them as ‘rubs’.


More Mom’s Kitchen Musings

For a very long time it lived in the dark, tucked away in the back of the cupboard that holds all of the seldom used cookware. Once in a while it would get unearthed for baking a pineapple upside down cake. But lately it has held forth front and center in the kitchen. The ten-inch cast iron skillet. Seasoned to a shiny black by my grandmother it is the kitchen workhorse of the hour. Need to dry out a few slices of bread for breadcrumbs? Place them in the skillet in a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Feeling guilty about wasting the last quarter loaf of that a day old baguette? Cut it into 2-inch squares, place in the skillet in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes, tossing every five minutes. But what has really kept the skillet front and center this week is the recipe below.

This is a deeply satisfying and easy meal to make after a long day at work. It also fits into the category that we can all relate to—the budget meal. Maybe you need to eat home all this week. Your next paycheck doesn’t arrive until next Friday and you can’t quite justify or afford a cheap $20 meal out every night this week. The solution is a pantry stocked with Russet potatoes, good olive oil, kosher salt, Spanish smoked paprika, and eggs.

Spanish Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients:

4 Russet potatoes, washed, dried and cut into 1-inch chunks

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

Place potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add about 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, 1 teaspoon Spanish Smoked Paprika (sweet), 1/2-teaspoon garlic powder.
Toss well until the mixture turns a deep mahogany red.

Place in cast iron pan. Roast for 30 minutes. Using a metal spatula carefully turn the potatoes over being sure to scrape the great crust that is forming on the bottom. Return to oven for at least 30 more minutes or until they are nice and crisp. Remove from oven. Poach 4 eggs. Place roasted potatoes on plate. Top with poached eggs. Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley. Also good served on a bed of fresh spinach.
Yield: two servings.

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