I was watching Anne Burrell yesterday (my current favorite TV chef–food is fun, yo!) making this very fancy-sounding French dish with sole, and she said, “This is French. French, of course, is code for ‘lots of butter.'”
As luck would have it, I’d made potatoes and onions the day before, and told my kids they were deli-style. Which is a phrase I use the same way my girl Anne uses French. Code. Butter. Salt. Decidedly not healthy. But fine for a treat every now and then.
Side note: Yes, I mean that. Every once in a great while, you should eat something that’s chock full of unhealthy, delicious ingredients. I do not mean chemicals. Don’t go using butter and sugar substitutes or fat-free this or that, because all of it’s been crammed full of crappy chemicals you can neither pronounce, define, nor guarantee aren’t eating you from the inside out while you eat it the other way ’round. Real food, boys and girls. The stuff your great-grandparents lived on back when we all moved enough to justify it. Every so often.
These are not healthy. But I had a bag full of potatoes and a big Vidalia onion laying around, and this is one of the few side dishes my kids beg for. We, my friends, have been known to drive an hour away to get deli potatoes like this, because there’s only one restaurant we know of that does them perfectly right and it’s in Annapolis, which is a heck of a long way to go for breakfast, but you have to do what you have to do sometimes.
So. Occasional treat. Which is FINE. Two or three times a year. Without guilt.
This is a pretty basic dish: you take potatoes and onions and you cook them up in butter and salt until they get all golden brown and delicious, and then you stuff yourself with them because they are just that good. They should definitely be on your list of 10 things to have on a deserted island. And your kids…let me tell you, your kids are going to think their real mother or father was kidnapped by aliens and replaced with an amazing chef-mom or dad, and you will not hear a peep out of them for the entire meal because they’ll be cramming these amazing ‘taters into their mouth like the world might end tomorrow, before anybody else takes what might even remotely be part of their share. These potatoes are, in a word, a miracle. The deli angels brought them to earth or something. I promise.
Ready to treat yourself? Of course you are. You need:
Potatoes. I use regular white baking potatoes, about 1/2 large or 2-3 baby per person
Onion. One large Vidalia.
Butter. Don’t even ask.
Salt to taste.
Pepper if you want it.
Bring a big pot of water to boil on the stove. While that happens, wash your potatoes and slice them into about 1/4 inch slices. Leave the skins on.
Once the water boils, dump your potatoes in and let them cook about five minutes, until you can pierce them with a fork easily but before they soften up and fall apart completely. Drain them really well–you don’t want any water in the next steps.
While the potatoes boil, heat a large skillet over medium until it’s really good and hot–a too-cool pan will steam your potatoes, which is not at all what we want here. Cut your onion in half through the stem, and then cut each half-onion into slices across their grains (you should end up with half-circle slices). Plop about two tablespoons of butter in your hot pan, use your fingers to separate those half-circles into onion strips, and cook them until they start to soften, adding a pinch or two of salt.
Once your potatoes drain, mix them up with the onions in the pan. Here’s where this gets a little odd, but trust me: To get them golden crunchy brown, you want to smoosh them down onto the pan. To do that, carefully lay a dinner plate on top of the potatoes and onions, and weight it down with a big can of tomatoes or something from your pantry–don’t use a plate that touches the sides of the pan, or it’ll crack. Yours should look like this:
Every three or four minutes, use an oven mitt to remove your can and plate (the plate will be hot!), give the veggies a stir, and put everything back together. If the pan gets dry, add more butter.
When the potatoes look crunchy brown and yummy, it’s time to eat and soak up the accolades. Once in awhile. Which is fine.