And I think this is one of the reasons I like cooking so much. Because, in a way, each completed meal or dish is a version of this—a mini moment of triumph.
In similarly related news, I recently read Nora Ephron’s Heartburn—it reminded me of something Woody Allen may have written if he were a thirty-five-year-old woman who was way into food. The book was great, but what I enjoyed the most were the recipes and descriptions of the food. Truly, I have never been more inspired to cook and eat a potato. Ephron makes the potato something to lust after. For the narrator, this starchy tuber is entwined with falling in and out of love. “I have friends who begin with pasta, and friends who begin with rice, but whenever I fall in love, I begin with potatoes,” she writes before going on to clarify that she is not talking about plain potatoes but crisp ones. But crisp potatoes take time. “And time, as any fool can tell you, is what true romance is about. In fact, one of the main reasons why you must make crisp potatoes in the beginning is that if you don’t make them in the beginning, you never will. I’m sorry to be so cynical about this, but that’s the truth.”
Of the two crisp potato recipes she describes, I chose Swiss potatoes. Apart from wanting to remain in the beginning and this recipe sounding completely indulgent and satisfying, I chose Swiss potatoes because I loved the way the recipe is written—it's simple and cute, but not cloying and the unapologetic paper towel usage gives it a nicely dated, 80s feel, which is reason enough itself.
For Swiss potatoes: Peel 3 large (or 4 small) russet potatoes (or all-purpose if you can’t get russets) and put them in cold water to cover. Start 4 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon cooking oil melting in a nice heavy large frying pan. Working quickly, dry the potatoes and grate them on the grating disk of the Cuisinart. Put them into a colander and squeeze out as much water as you can. Then dry them again on paper towels. You will need more paper towels to do this than you ever thought possible. Dump the potatoes into the frying pan, patting them down with a spatula, and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the bottom of the pancake is brown. Then, while someone is watching, loosen the pancake and, with one incredibly deft motion, flip it over. Salt it generously. Cook 5 minutes more. Serves two.
I realize that it may not look like much, but I had never flipped anything like that before, and clearly, I had my doubts. My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty. But, alas, I did it. And on top of it all, the pancake was insanely delicious. It was everything you could ever want from a potato. It was hot, buttery, crispy but soft in the center. And whether you're in the beginning, middle, or end (of falling in love or otherwise), if I were you, I would make this as soon as possible.