Smashing Potatoes

November 15, 2015
Being half Irish, I am genetically programmed to love potatoes. This is my justification for eating them as often as I do. There have been times when potatoes were roasted in a fire and eaten plain. I am pleased to live in a time and place that allow me to enhance that potato goodness with salt and butter, at the very least. The following simple potato idea leads to a stunningly crisp result.
Scrub the required number of potatoes (I'd say a minimum of two per person). They should be smaller than a tennis ball, and of any variety, whether floury or waxy. Cover them with water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook until they can be pierced with a fork (15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes). Drain them and return the pan to the heat for a few minutes, shaking the potatoes around to dry them off. Turn them out onto a cutting board.
Here's the fun part. SMASH those suckers. I use a potato masher that has a flat bottom. You could also use a mallet or even a large can of (for example) tomatoes or a heavy skillet. Position a potato (do this one at a time) on your cutting board and WHAM it with your chosen implement. But hold back a bit; don't use all your strength. The goal is not to make it as thin as a pancake but to flatten it to a little less than an inch in thickness (see the photograph). Set the potatoes aside while you prepare the pan.
This next part you can do on top of the stove or in the oven. Heat a skillet  large enough to hold the potatoes in one layer. If you are cooking for a crowd, you might need to use a rimmed cookie sheet instead of a skillet, and in this case you will definitely be cooking the potatoes in the oven, not on the stovetop. For five or six potatoes, add to the heating pan a couple tablespoons of olive oil and the same amount of butter. Use more oil and butter if you are cooking a larger batch.
Heat over a medium flame until the oil/butter mixture is bubbling and sizzling, use a spatula to lift each potato and deposit it in the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low
and set the timer for 10 to 15 minutes, at which point you lift a potato to see if the underside is golden brown. When it is, salt and pepper the tops then turn each potato to crisp the other side, which will take another 10 to 15 minutes. If you opt for cooking in the oven, set the temperature at 375 degrees and follow the same time estimates.
Drain them briefly on paper towels, then eat with relish (figuratively or actually).


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