My wife and I absolutely loved our honeymoon in Italy. Italy was my first international trip and we both can’t wait to go back…whenever that day might be. Of the many fantastic experiences, food ranked pretty highly–we had some of the best meals ever while we were there, and so of course, when I got back home, I had to try to mimic some of them. This side dish is one such attempt. I’m sure an authentic version would be far simpler to prepare, but I suppose I can claim immunity by not being Italian, right? But rest assured, the flavors are definitely there.
For the uninitiated, eating out in Italy is a little different than here in the USA. For instance, whereas here you might order an appetizer, meal, and dessert, over there (and I’m sure in many other countries), you were more likely to order a starter, a first course (which you might characterize as being similar to a “side dish”), a second course (e.g. your meat with no sides), and then the dessert. If you’re really lucky, you’ll discover some new meal courses in between depending on how fancy the eatery! Our favorite surprise courses came in the form of apertif drink, pre-appetizer, appetizer, first course, second course, pre-dessert, dessert, and pre-bill/post-dessert (it sure sweetens paying for all of that!).
With all of that in mind, this dish is my interpretation of a very common first course that we encountered in Italy: chopped, roasted red potatoes. They’re simple, attractive, and quite tasty what with tender, toasty flavors rounded out by a nutty wine and topped off with the sweet aromas of rosemary. They’re versatile and go really well with a surprising number of Italian flavored dishes, often times offering a much more exciting side dish than a predictable plate of pasta. This is also my entry in this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Ulrike from Kuchenlatein.
- 8-10 red potatoes
- 2 tsp olive oil
- juice of one lemon
- 1/2-3/4 cup of sherry wine
- 3-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 2-3 tsp minced garlic
- 1/4-1/2 stick of butter
- freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 3-4 large leaves of fresh basil
- leaves from 3-4 sprigs of fresh oregano
- a little bit of fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
- black pepper
- leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 4 scallions
- fennel seeds
- smoked paprika
- dried sage
- cayenne pepper
- a few chopped mushrooms and/or slivers of onion
Chop the potatoes into smallish pieces. Picture scooping up about 3 potato pieces at a time on your fork when you’re eating this–that is your target size for the potato chunks. Try to keep all of your pieces of roughly similar size so that they all cook through by the same amount or you risk having some not cooked and others burnt into rubber.
Dice up the fresh ingredients very finely, melt down the butter, and mix everything except for the potatoes in a large bowl. Then add in the potatoes and toss them around a bit so as to coat them well.
Spread your potato chunks out evenly in a baking/foil pan. Be sure not to pile your potatoes up or overly crowd them as they won’t cook terribly well. Also, don’t forget to slip your sprigs of rosemary in there. I broke off a few rosemary leaves to sprinkle around, but left the majority on the stem so that it is easier to remove once the cooking is done.
Roast these guys in the oven on at least 400? F for roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes (All that cooking time is a good time to worry about what your main course will be!). Taste the potatoes if you’re not sure about done-ness–you’ll know with certainty if they’re done or not (if not, boost the heat up to 425? F for another 15 minutes). The outside will be darkened and slightly toasted whereas the inside will be melt-in-your-mouth tender. Remove the rosemary and enjoy!