Stacked, Packed, and Hasselbacked
New-Fashioned Party-Ready Maine Potato Dishes
A work by Vachel Lindsay, an early 20th-century American singing poet, makes potatoes the life of the party.
“Potatoes were the waiters,
Potatoes were the band,
Potatoes were the dancers
Kicking up the sand…”
The 2019 Maine potato crop was valued at $184 million. While many Maine taters make their way into bags of Lay’s potato chips and McCain French fries, there are still plenty of Kennebecs, Katahdins, and Caribou Russets to be had by Mainers who like to cook. The Maine Potato Board is expecting the dry growing season to have taken its toll on the 2020 crop. Seeking out local potatoes now, therefore, will help farmers seed next year’s crop.
We happily dive into weeknight pots of mashed potatoes and eat plenty of fries with burgers, no doubt. With the recipes here, though, we take Lindsay’s advice to heart and suggest you bring Maine potatoes to the party. Any party.
A pavé is a stack of scallop potatoes made sexy by Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in northern California. This mostly make-ahead terrine is sliced and seared just before being served with filet mignon on Christmas Eve or smoked salmon on New Year’s Day.
Hasselback sweet potatoes can be dressed up or down for any occasion, especially if you hit a farmers’ market and find both orange Covingtons and purple Murasakis. These semi-sliced, butter-drizzled baked potatoes would be as comfortable with your holiday ham as they would its leftovers.
And, finally, twice-baked potatoes are as homey as you can get. Make a batch tailored to your taste (or what’s in your refrigerator) to pop in the oven when your COVID pod stops back to yours after cross-country skiing.
Here we provide master recipes and suggested variations to help you celebrate any wintery occasion.
Instead of the thyme and garlic listed in this recipe, you can switch things up and use rosemary to flavor the oil and serve with pork or add chili pepper flakes to the cream to turn up the heat.
5 tablespoons room temperature butter
Ground white pepper
1 cup heavy cream
4 large potatoes, each weighing 12 ounces
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, skin-on, lightly crushed
Minced fresh chives
Preheat oven to 350°. Rub bottom and sides of a 5- by 9-inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Line pan with parchment paper, leaving a 5-inch overhang on all sides. Rub parchment paper with 1 tablespoon butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut remaining 3 tablespoons butter into ¼-inch cubes.
Pour cream into a large bowl; season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Trim potatoes to fit width of pan. Set a mandoline over bowl and slice potatoes lengthwise into thin slices. Toss slices in cream as you go.
To form pavé, place potato slices into prepared pan in an even layer; make a second layer. Dot with a few cubes of butter; season with salt and pepper. Continue layering potatoes and adding butter and seasoning after every two layers until pan is filled to the rim. Fold sides of parchment over potatoes. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil, place it on a baking sheet, and slide it into the oven.
Bake until potatoes are tender when pierced with a skewer, about 90 minutes. Remove pavé from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Cut a piece of cardboard slightly smaller than the top of the pan, wrap with aluminum foil, place it on potatoes, and weigh it down with heavy cans until the pavé is room temperature. Refrigerate pavé 6–48 hours.
To serve, run a spatula between parchment paper and pan to release pavé. Lift pavé out of pan and place it on a cutting board. Cut into 6 slices, 1 ½ inches thick each.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add enough vegetable oil to coat bottom. When oil is hot, add thyme and garlic. Add potatoes (cut side down) and cook, basting with oil, until browned on first side. Turn and brown on opposite side. Transfer slices to a platter and sprinkle with chives before serving hot.
Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
Swap out garlic, thyme, and lemon juice for bacon bits, chopped scallions, and minced chipotle chilies in adobo and chopped apples, walnuts, and maple syrup.
4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra chopped herbs to garnish
Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Carefully cut ⅛-inch slits along the top of each potato, stopping ½ inch (1 cm) from the bottom. I find it helpful to place a chop stick on each side of the potato to avoid slicing the potatoes all the way through. Melt butter. Stir in garlic, thyme, rosemary, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Place potatoes onto the lined baking sheet; brush with seasoned butter and roast until the center of the potatoes are beginning to soften, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with more seasoned butter, and fan the wedges out slightly with a fork. Return to oven and bake until the potatoes are soft and tender in the center and crispy on the outside, 15–30 minutes. Serve hot, brushed with seasoned butter and extra chopped herbs.
Make the cheese blue and top the potatoes with sautéed mushrooms and onions; stir in chopped chorizo sausage, roasted red pepper, and manchego cheese; or add cheddar cheese and broccoli to make a vegetarian meal.
4 large russet potatoes (10–12 ounces each), scrubbed, pierced 3–4 times with a fork
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ cup crème fraîche
4 ounces coarsely grated or crumbled cheese
Preheat oven to 400°. Rub potatoes with oil. Place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle each with a pinch of salt. Bake until tender, 45–60 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a cutting board and let sit until cool enough to handle.
Cut a ½-inch-thick slice off the top of each potato; scrape the flesh from the tops into a large bowl. Spoon the flesh from the potatoes into the bowl, leaving a ¼-inch shell. Add butter, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Mix with a potato masher until mostly blended (lumps are OK). Gently fold in the crème fraîche and half the cheese.
Using your fingers, rub the outsides of the potato shells with the oil. Distribute the filling among the shells, mounding it, and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake the potatoes, uncovered, until heated through, 25–30 minutes. (To check, insert the blade of a small knife into the center of a potato for 5 seconds; it should be hot.) Sprinkle the potatoes with the remaining cheese and bake until the cheese melts and browns lightly in some places, 2–3 minutes more. Garnish the potatoes with the chives, let sit 5–10 minutes, and serve.
Christine has lived in many places, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, England and France. But her professional world has consistently been grounded in just two: in journalism and in the kitchen. Throughout her 30-year writing career, she’s covered sports, politics, business and technology. But for the past 10 years after completing culinary school, she’s focused on food. Her words and recipes about eating locally and sustainably have appeared in publications from The Portland Press Herald to Fine Cooking. Her award-winning cookbook Green Plate Special (link is: https://www.amazon.com/Green-Plate-Special-Sustainable-Delicious/dp/1944762140) was published in 2017. When she’s not laboring over a cutting board or a keyboard, she’s learning from her two semi-adult children, a community of food-minded friends, hundreds of productive Maine farmers, thousands of innovative chefs near and far, and her 30,000 honeybees.