Saturday, September 3, 2011

Grilled Heritage Fingerling Potatoes

With Labor Day weekend upon us here in the USA it can only mean that summer is rapidly come to a close in Chicago.  I still have so many grill recipes to prepare it looks like I will have plenty to hold over until next year.

During the past couple weeks I tried out the heritage potatoes that our local market was selling.  I would say they are a combination of fingerling varieties, although they were unmarked.  Fingerlings are varieties that naturally grow small and narrow and are mature when harvested.  They should not to be confused with new potatoes.  Popular fingerling potatoes include the yellow-skinned Russian Banana, the orange-skinned French, and the Purple Peruvian.   All tend to be low in starch and have a fine flavor and firm, waxy texture and can be eaten unpeeled.

Fingerlings in Mesh Bag
Because they are more expensive than standard potatoes, you want to show them off and prepare them as a side dish.  As such, I made two different versions on the grill as shown here, for two different meals one with lamb and the other with haddock.

I selected two different preparation methods; one crunchy and one soft.

Crunchy and Bold:  This method involves washing and halving the potatoes, then tossing them lightly in olive oil.  Then using a mixture of 1 part panko bread crumbs and 2 parts grated Parmesean cheese, sprinkle the potatoes to evenly coat.  Salt and pepper to taste, and place them in a grill basket over moderate heat.  Turn them several times and cook for about 30 minutes.  (The smaller potatoes cook more quickly than traditional potoatoes.  However it is important to note that these potatoes should always be fully cooked as they undercooking can result in solanine poisoning.)  I paired these with haddock and bay scallops. However, I felt the potatoes were too bold for the delicate seafood main course.


Soft and Delicate:  I always call this method 'camp potatoes' and regularly use it for red skin potatoes.  Wash and cut the potatoes into halves.  Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with olive oil and your favorite seasonings.  Place a large square of foil on your work surface and place the potatoes down the center.  I usually make this shape to fit the upper grill rack so I can use the full main grill for other foods.  Wrap the potatoes neatly in the foil and then using a second piece of foil, wrap again.  Use a fork to poke a few holes for steam to escape on both sides.  Roast on your pre-heated grill at 350F for 30-40 minutes or until tender and cooked through. I paired these potatoes with lamb T-bones, but because of the strong flavor of the lamb and its sauce, the more delicate flavor of the potatoes didn't pair as well as it would have with the fish.


Of the two techniques, I favor the latter (camp potatoes) as I think they show off the fingerlings best.  The crunchy methods bold flavor and crunch tends to overshadow the special potatoes you are serving.  In the end however, if your main dish is fixed you'll need to select the preparation method/flavor that goes best with your main course.  I should have prepared the camp potatoes for the fish and the crunching/bold potatoes for the lamb.

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