Who decreed that the oil must be fried during Hanukkah? Absolutely no one. And despite thoughts to the contrary, fried potatoes are not necessarily the ne plus ultra of the humble spud. What does elevate the homely tuber to extraordinary heights is a great big glug of olio nuovo, the verdant, creamy first bottling of the first pressing of the season’s olive oil that arrives in specialty markets during November and December. Think starring ingredient instead of cooking fat. Think caviar, but much more versatile. Learn more about olio nuovo, as well as its connection to Hanukkah here.
This may be one of the simplest dishes to prepare: Purchase flavorful, interesting potatoes from your local hardworking farmer. Peel, or don’t peel; slice, or don’t slice; steam over, or boil in, a couple of inches salted water until tender. Drain and pour generous amounts of “new oil” over the warm potatoes, along with a good sprinkle of crunchy finishing salt. Lovely with chopped parsley. Or not.
If you prefer your cooking instructions in recipe format, I’ve done that for you below. But, honestly, don’t overthink what it takes to boil potatoes; our ancestors have been doing it a long time.
This holiday season, take a bold step and skip frying your potatoes.
Makes 4-6 servings
2 pounds all-purpose potatoes such as Yukon gold, Corolla, German Butterball, or large French, La Ratte or Russian Banana fingerlings, 2 to 4 ounces each
Kosher or sea salt, for cooking
Fleur de sel or other finishing salt
Chopped parsley, red wine vinegar, freshly ground black pepper, or red pepper flakes, optional, for garnish
Shortly before you want to eat the potatoes, peel and cut them crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rounds or ovals (oval works best for fingerling potatoes).
Bring a large sauté pan filled with 1 to 2 inches water to a boil. Stir in a generous 1 tablespoon kosher salt and add the potatoes. Cover the pan, bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to keep the liquid at a brisk simmer. Cook the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove the potatoes using a skimmer or slotted spoon, giving them a little shake to remove excess water, and place in shallow bowl or rimmed platter. Douse with olio nuovo, season with finishing salt as desired and scatter parsley over all. Pass vinegar, pepper and additional oil at the table as you like.
Note: For whole boiled potatoes, boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and allow guests to peel, slice and garnish as they like.