Last week, I posted a recipe for smoked oyster mushrooms and bruschetta, inspired by the mushrooms that I found at the farmer’s market. Well, my market bonanza was not limited to amazing mushrooms, not by a long shot. I also scored some tiny new potatoes. These babies are not the 2-3 inch long B-sized behemoth new potatoes, but the true marble sized beauties that really embody new-ness. Freshly dug, their papery skin and barely-there eyes called out to me.
And I wanted to smoke them.
You see, I’ve been seeing smoked potato dishes on the menus of cutting-edge restaurants when I travel. Some puree a smoked potato with cream, while some smoke a naked potato and use it as a component in a multi-element dish.
At home, I rarely make a multi-component dish, with painted sauces and little piles of laboriously crafted food. Or should I say, never.
Sorry to burst your bubble, if you thought that food writers and chefs spend their time tweezing and drizzling on a weeknight.
At home, with just me and the sweetheart who gamely eats all my experiments, I don’t have to work that hard. So when I decided to infuse these perfect little potatoes with smoke, I knew that I was going to hold back any impulse to get fancy. I had to let the smoke lead the way.
So I boiled the precious potatoes whole, in salted water. Standing over the pot with a paring knife, I started poking at the littlest ones within five minutes, just to make sure I didn’t overcook. It’s kind of a sorting game. Stare into the pot, pick the smallest potato, spear it with the knife. It’s done, put it in a bowl. Look for the smallest potato in the pot, spear it, repeat.
Forget your troubles, stare into the pot and poke potatoes. This process is good for you.
Once the potatoes were tender and cooled off slightly, I halved them all. Put them in an old pan with olive oil and salt, and tossed them to coat.
I got the smoker chips going (see description in last weeks post) and put the pan on the grill, off the heat. These don’t need to cook, just soak in smoke. Once the smoke was really rolling, I just turned off the grill and left them there with the lid closed.
In the interest of simplicity, I wanted a light vinaigrette. I just whisked up a bit of fresh lemon and olive oil, and chopped a beautiful golden heirloom tomato. A few scallions, and a sprinkle of coarse salt and smoked paprika.
Like I said, holding back the impulse to overwhelm the little potatoes. No aioli, no handfuls of herbs. No spice. Just smoke, with a bright note of lemon on top, and some juicy tomato.
Yup. Smoking potatoes is a summertime pastime. Once you have them all infused, you can use them in all sorts of things, from a carb-lovers pizza to a veggie medley with some sauteed sweet corn and peppers. A light coat of mayo would be delicious, too, with some crunchy celery. Bash them with a little creaminess from butter or oil, and you can simply salt and pepper and dig in.
So soak some chips and get smoking. It’s a neat trick that delivers plenty of flavor, with minimal work.
Exactly what we need for summer!
Smoked New Potato and Heirloom Tomato Salad
Soaked wood chips for the grill
1 pound teeny new potatoes
extra virgin olive oil and salt for the pan
1 large heirloom tomato, chopped
2 large scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
A sprinkle of smoked paprika
Set the grill up to smoke. Take the grate off and get your smoker chip box ready to go, then preheat the grill on high until it is hot. Dump the soaked and drained chips in the box and close the lid, turn off the side that is not directly heating the chips. All you want is for those chips to smolder. Check every 10, to see how the smoke is, sprinkle a little water on if it starts putting out wisps of smoke. Once it is putting out visible smoke, put the pan of potatoes on the cold side of the grill and shut the lid. Turn the heat down under the chips once the smoke is seeping out the sides of the grill. Open occasionally jut to drip some water on the chips.
When the chips are fully smoky, turn off the heat and let the potatoes soak in the smoke for at least 30 minutes, lid closed.
Let the potatoes cool, then put them in a bowl with the tomato and scallions. Whisk the lemon and olive oil with a generous pinch of salt. Pour the dressing over it all and toss gently, then serve sprinkled with smoked paprika and more salt.