I have only been cooking as regularly as I do now for a few years. I always liked the idea of it, but would only do so about once a year when I lived in NYC with a mere postage stamp for a kitchen and an enormous wealth of terrific restaurants all around. Once I moved away and had my own space with its own comparatively enormous kitchen, I began to enjoy having people over and cooking for them. And now enough time has passed that I am starting to have recipes that remind me of a certain time and space and of feeding family and friends. I have plenty of memories of the foods of my youth made lovingly by my mom, or aunt or grandmother — even my brothers. But, it's slightly different when the memory is of having made it yourself for others. This is one of those recipes.
The first year I had moved out of New York and rented a little house to myself on the North Fork of Long Island, I had my family over for Easter dinner. I chose an ambitious menu from Food & Wine and was dedicated to cooking every last bit of it as it appeared in the magazine. I slaved away and sweated and puffed and didn't let anyone lift a finger — my stress measurable with each cocktail my family downed while watching me through a haze of flour and steam and mumbled profanities in the kitchen. It may even be the recipe for which I bought a potato ricer.
I have relaxed somewhat in the kitchen since then, but still recognize the beauty of these little puffs of creamy, light, potato puff balls encased in a crispy yet tender crust. I'm glad I sweated through that evening with family so that I can look back now and laugh and make them somewhat more gracefully for the boy — just a half batch — without worrying that I'm missing an ingredient or that they might not be perfect. I am cherishing this feeling and look forward to more of it as the years pass—especially once we get back into a physical space where we can fit a table that will seat more than two!
I made these potato puffs — basically an amped-up tater tot—this year for Easter along with this leg of lamb recipe slightly modified with the addition of a thin layer of dijon mustard on the lamb before coating it with the garlic-herb paste. I was so ready to dig in, that the above is the only photo I bothered to snap. This meal is divine — enjoy!
From Food & Wine
2 1/4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Vegetable oil, for frying
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Cook for 1 minute over high heat, shaking the pan frequently to dry out the potatoes.
Pass the potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. Stir in the egg, butter, dry milk, cheese, flour and nutmeg; season with salt. Using floured hands, roll the potato mixture into 1-inch balls; you should have about 60.
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Working in batches of about 12, fry the potato balls over moderately high heat until they are browned on 3 sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, season lightly with salt and transfer the potato balls to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining balls.
When all of the puffs are fried, reheat them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve at once.
Note: The recipe can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated for a few hours or overnight. Bring the potato balls to room temperature before frying.