Crispy Potatoes

Is it sad that even though I haven’t set foot in a McDonald’s since I was a teenager, the first thing I thought when I bit into this potato was: Oh my God. I just made McDonald’s fries? But then, on the second potato, I changed my mind: No, better than McDonald’s. Because there was this mellow, round flavor from the olive oil. With my third potato, things got weird. I imagined marching into a McDonald’s and saying: “You call that a potato? (I would motion towards their potatoes at this point, obviously.) No. This is a potato.” Then, I would dig into my pocket and produce one of my potatoes. They would try it, agree with me, then lift me up on their shoulders and parade me through the city!

But before I get carried away, I need to tell you how I arrived at these remarkably crispy potatoes, as I believe I learned a valuable life lesson from them, and if there’s anything one knows about valuable life lessons, it’s that they need to be shared.

It began with a headache—I get migraines. And though I have prescription drugs for them, sometimes I don’t want to take the medicine because it can make me feel like a space cadet / almost as non-functioning as I am with the migraine. So, last week when I got one, I tried to sleep on it. I went to bed early, only to wake up in the middle of the night with the pain much worse than it was when I went to sleep. I took a pill, felt sorry for myself, and then woke up 4 hours later all woozy.

That afternoon, I was feeling better and mentioned the headache to my dear friend, who of course, I’ve mentioned these headaches to in the past, and she told me how she believes there’s a link between blocking fun/pleasure and head pressure and basically prescribed me two hours to myself. To be exact, her actual emailed words were: “Take 2 hours TOTALLY FOR YOURSELF. Do not cook food for Matt. Do not get writing done. Go and play with your inner girl child.” (Right now, Matt’s like: Wait a second. How did I get wrapped up into this?)

I must say that I loved the idea. Who wouldn’t? Two hours to yourself. Of course, I couldn’t start right that moment. I decided I would finish up the writing I was working on and then take my two hours. And not cook dinner for Matt? I liked where her head was at, but let’s get real. I had already bought the ingredients for that night's dinner. Plus, Matt was at work and it wouldn’t be very nice to skip out on him, especially since on days I work and he doesn't, he always cooks a great dinner for me. So, once I worked through my tasks, I finally shut my laptop, looked around the apartment and repeated the words in my head: Take two hours to myself

But what to do? My pal had suggested things like going to a park or a café, but those didn’t resonate with me. And everything I came up with seemed either too indulgent (going to the movies alone) or too expensive (going shopping). So, I just stood there, re-asking myself: What should I do? What would be fun? It must have been at least five minutes until I finally decided to grab my screen-printing stuff and screen-print the tote bags I had recently dyed. It sounded fun and was something I needed to do anyway (holiday gifts!). But when I finished cleaning everything up, I went back on the Internet. Or, in other words: a two-hours-to-myself fail.

Fast forward to a few days later: I was dragging my feet on a project, distracted and generally frown-y, when it dawned on me that I should try my hand at taking two hours for myself again, that maybe it would help. Our apartment was freezing and my first thought was to take a hot shower, but then, an angel/devil on my shoulder whispered: No! Take a bath, Dingus! Coincidentally, I had just discovered Pandora (I thought you had to pay for it, so I had never previously checked it out.) and I put it on the Mazzy Star channel. (Just lost my male readers!) But listen: what ensued was one of the nicest least expensive things I have ever done for myself. And when I returned to the world with all of its electronics and websites and earthly demands, I felt so completely ready to dismiss them. In fact, I got in bed and opened a book. In the middle of the afternoon! And I thought to myself, a very specific thought: the only thing missing from this scenario is crispy potatoes.
It’s funny the things we do when our significant other isn’t around. I like to light incense, write letters, eat ice cream from the carton while standing at the kitchen countertop, and watch romantic period movies. Matt likes to order chicken wings, search the Internet for used camera equipment, and watch B-horror movies and/or strange documentaries. Of course we can do these things while the other one is around, but we usually don’t. For one, I don’t like the way those chicken wings look and Matt thinks the incense “smells like burning.”

I mention this because as I lay in bed post-bath, I was reminded of a few things. 1.) Matt had a late meeting after work so I was on my own for dinner that night. 2.) I actually already had potatoes in the house. And 3.) I rarely cook myself a thoughtful, delicious meal when it’s just me showing up for dinner.

I think this should change. Starting with this meal of crispy potatoes and salad. And please don’t think I phoned in the salad. It’s very much inspired—specifically, by a salad I’ve eaten on a few separate occasions at David Lentz’s The Hungry Cat and had been meaning to recreate. So, from memory—as searching for the recipe online would’ve been a buzzkill—I tossed together romaine lettuce, sliced hard-boiled eggs, avocado, and lots of shaved Pecorino, with an olive oil, lemon juice and white wine vinegar dressing. It came together quickly, and while it didn’t taste exactly the same as The Hungry Cat’s, it was pretty close. Next time, I’ll try a softer lettuce. Alas, romaine is what I had in the fridge. The potatoes, on the other hand, came together less quickly. I was making less than half of what the recipe called for, and just peeling all of those tiny potatoes took 30 minutes. And then you have to boil them, wait for them to cool, and scrape each one with a fork before roasting for an hour. (So, please pardon the photos as they were taken in low light.) But if less-than-stellar photography and an hour of prep time in the kitchen leads you to potatoes this delicious and crispy, so be it!
I mean, remember the McDonald’s comparisons above? Each one had a shell layer of crispy potato while the inside remained all soft and fluffy. A must try for potato lovers. (Mom, I’m talking to you!)
So, where’s that valuable life lesson I was talking about earlier? I think it’s this: take time for yourself and then, and this is key, be nice to yourself. Draw yourself a bath, light a candle or two, and take the time to crisp up some potatoes. You won’t regret it... Have you ever heard anyone say, “Man, I shouldn’t have taken that bath,” or, “Wish I hadn’t made those little crispy orbs of potato.”? But then, what do I know? I’m 30 years old and just took my first bath in over four years.

Forked Oven-Roasted Potatoes via Bon Appetit
6 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes (1 1/2"–2"-diameter), peeled
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 425°. Working in 2 batches, cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, firmly scrape the tines of a fork up and down potatoes, creating a rough, grooved surface.
Pour oil onto another rimmed baking sheet; bake (to heat oil) for 5 minutes. Add potatoes; turn to coat. Season with 1 tablespoon salt. Roast, turning 3 times during cooking and occasionally basting with oil, until browned and tender, 60–70 minutes.
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Matthew said...

Thank you for leaving me a few potatoes. I remember what McDonald's fries taste like (salt) and these were much, much better.

Amy said...

I've worked at McDonalds, and let me tell you, these look much better and more delicious than their fries. ;) I'm bookmarking these to try later to impress my potato-lover friends. Thanks!

Jessica said...

OK, three things:

Those crispy potatoes look so good, as a major potato-lover I'll definitely have to give these a go.

I love this idea of setting aside "me time." I think I need to do that more often!

Do you still sell your tote bags on etsy? The new ones look really cool!

Natalie (Fashion Intel) said...

Loved reading your account of finally taking time for yourself. And now I must make those potatoes and eat them in a bath!

greenbeen said...

love the first image...i can see the wine on the side and those potatoes would have me so happy! great post...me time is something i lack massssivellly! so good when you get it. have a great dec. dayle

Stephanie said...

Such a great lesson-a good reminder for me to do the same once in a while. You are a very talented writer by the way Amelia! I found your blog through Amy's (The Moveable Feasts) and have added you to my blog roll. Looking forward to many more. And as a potato lover, I can't wait to try these-even if they do require a little bit of time.

Sarah (Winner Celebration Party) said...

Love this message, and you convey it so well! As you get older, you spend most/all of your time tending to things and others. It's all too easy to forget how to shed that sense of responsibility, even for a moment.

I also love the tote bags...and the potatoes....basically every post you do!

mari said...

I just finished reading a story about "shoulds" and how we live our life according to our shoulds all the damn time. The author found more meaning in following her intuition and listening to the "quiet nudging sensation in my gut". Well I came here right after reading that and the two together made for a perfect my gut tells me to make potatoes, take a bath and read in bed tale. We all need some pushing into sense sometimes.

Rebecca said...

FOUR YEARS?! FOUR FUCKING YEARS?! Jesus, woman. The bath is, as far as I'm concerned, one of life's great indulgences, and quite necessary for my sanity :).

I guess I'm lucky, because half of what I do involves spending long hours hiking around outside, climbing trees and gathering bits and bobs. It's a lot of time just to myself. I'll often take a picnic and climb up somewhere high and look out over whatever pretty view there is and, well, it's a lot more than 2 hours, a couple of times a week. But the weeks I don't get to do that (like I had one scheduled for today but it's raining and I'm staring out the window like a caged cat) I get a bit (read: a lot) sad.

And I totally know what you mean about couples and their time when the other is away. I light candles and watch Jane Austen adaptations, often in the bath, sometimes with a glass of wine, and stay up really late, and change the sheets and shave my legs and sleep on the diagonal with my arms and legs spread out :).

Jen said...

I feel like I'm reading my own thoughts here--thankfully not on the migraines but definitely on the time-for-myself and the small Yukon golds roasted. We used small Yukon golds (found in the salad section of our grocery) and roasted them and I even said to my husband that they were the creamiest, most flavorful potatoes I'd ever eaten. I want to make them this easy because it will be even so much better.

la domestique said...

#1 Pandora is free? What! This changes everything.
#2 every once and a while I take myself to lunch and have a glass of sparkling wine at my fav restaurant. Feels good, yo.
#3 yes to those spuds.

keepfeeling said...

taking time these for yourself seems like such a luxury, but really it should be a necessity! i'm happy you were able to get some amelia time!

on another note, those crispy taters are mouth watering. your post actually reminded me of how often i would go to mcdonald's in college when i was hungover. so gross.

and on ANOTHER note, i am totally digging those dyed bon appetempt bags!

keepfeeling said...

meant to say "taking time these days for yourself"

Mary Anne said...

Reading Bon Appetempt is what I do when I'm taking time for myself! Right now I am lying on the couch with my feet up, reading your wonderful writing, drinking tea, and listening to Christmas music. It's 2:30 in the afternoon. Do I have a problem? No! Up next is work!

Thanks for this great post...I'm forwarding it to someone I know who I think would like it.

p.s. I'm going to take a bath tonight.

Heather Taylor said...

I'm writing this from the bath. JK! Love this post. Taking time for oneself is the greatest indulgence and necessity. I want those patatas!

Kara said...

Heather: Haha, writing from the bath. Good one!

1. Sorry I dragged Matt into things!

2. I could take a lesson or 5 from you about cooking for my beloved.

3. That is the prettiest incense burner in the world! Matt thinks it smells like burning--that is hysterical. Sometimes I go to work after saging the house, and smell like one big pot head. Which I am not.

Awesome post! I love that your ma loves potatoes. Having married a Midwesterner, I might have the wrong idea about what happens to women who love too many potatoes, know what I mean?

Speaking of mothers, it occurred to me as I read your post that I have my mother to thank for setting a fabulous example for taking time for oneself. That lady knows how to read a novel into the wee hours and takes a religious nap every afternoon. I always thought the napping was especially annoying when I had to be quiet growing up, but if she were on the internet at all now, I would definitely have to give a shout out for the excellent role modeling.

lots of love (& Pandora-ing bliss)!

Meister @ The Nervous Cook said...

I have that same kind of weird anxiety: "Okay, now I've decided to take two hours for me, but what should I do with it?" Somehow it seems like you've got to pick just the right thing, or do something exceptional and remarkable, which, of course, is a little beyond the point.

A bath sounds perfect. Me, I'm a letter writer. Or sometimes a knitter. And almost always, there's a great cup of coffee involved.

Melissa Oliver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the delicious wife said...

oh my goodness...i'm totally making these potatoes, wait, but, i want a bath too! i've got it. i'm gonna make them and eat them in the bath, yeah, that's it. that's what i call pampering!

K said...

@Rebecca and I are on exactly the same page....Baths are a necessary indulgence.

PS made these potats last night. Except I didn't follow your recipe (a common symptom of my laziness) and boiled them for too long, used russet potats, and didn't scrape with a fork. They didn't turn out perfect, but nothing lots of olive oil and sea salt can't fix. Then I had them for breakfast.

Rachel said...

I was listening to Pandora as I read this! (Danny's Song channel, but I'll have to check out Mazzy Star.) Loved the part about doing things by yourself that you don't do with Matt. Somehow I thought only I did that. Silly.

amelia said...

@K Let's be honest! I don't think you can go wrong with that combination.

@everyone so glad you like!

And as for the totes, I am working to get them up online soon! Either that or I'll do a giveaway... we'll see what happens!

Anne Zimmerman said...

I want a BA bag! Totes are the new hip thing according to the NY Times.

Also, you --like I-- dither over the idea of R+R. It's so wrong. A 2012 resolution?

steffigf said...

I love that at first you actually didn't know what to do with your "me" time -- I empathize!

It's so easy to get bound up in all the things we should be doing that it's hard to step back from that. Like we're out of practice, or something. Well, here's to more practicing!

Mary Anne said...

i took a bath

Anonymous said...

Hi Amelia,

I love your blog! I would love to buy my sister a tote bag for Christmas, are you selling them this year?



amelia said...

Dear Friends interested in tote bags!
I made a listing in my etsy store. check it out! Will put more up as I go, but right now I only have a few (it's kind of a one woman operation)...

If you'd like it by 12/25, I would advise ordering asap!! Ideally by end of day Thursday so I can ship out on Friday! xoxo

jeana sohn said...

the bags are so awesome! i want to eat those potatoes now. so hungry..

Eggton said...

Hello! Quick question: is it as good if I leave the skins on? About to make them and I have some lovely colors of potatoes-- I'd rather leave the skins on.

Thoughts, Amelia? Or anyone who's made them in the interim?


amelia said...

@eggton I don't know! But I would love it if you would try it and tell us how it works!