A Glorious Side: Potatoes on the Grill


My late friend, Mel, an extraordinarily talented ceramic artist, once gave me advice on planting potatoes. It was something I knew a little bit about as I used to help my grandmother garden. “So,” he said, “chunk the potatoes and plant the eyes face up. Then cover each one with a paper towel.”

“A paper towel?” I said. “I’ve never heard of that before.”

“Well, yah. You don’t want them to get dirt in their eyes.” Sorry. That corny joke is for Mel.

I love potatoes. Mashed, baked, sautéed, or fried. Even at a fancy steakhouse, they’re the first target of my fork. But I especially love them when they’re smoke-roasted. That hint of wood smoke turns the humble potato into something glorious and sublime.

They’re dense, yes. So they need a little extra time on the grill. But your patience will be rewarded when you taste that smoky, fluffy potato flesh, especially when it’s enhanced with bacon, cheese, butter, and sour cream.

Don’t pigeon-hole potatoes as a side dish. They’re much more versatile than that. I love to eat them in the morning (maybe 10-ish) filled with sausage, scrambled eggs, and salsa. You won’t need lunch. In my mind, the skin is the best part. That’s where all the nutrients are. One potato will give you a third of your daily requirements of Vitamin C and Vitamin B6 with a payload of only 168 calories. (Yes, that’s before the bacon.)

And potatoes soak up all the lovely flavors of the grill like a sponge. They respond so well to indirect grilling—that is, grilled near (but not over) the fire. If you want to reduce the grilling time, you can partially cook the potatoes before transferring them to the grill. I sometimes boil baby potatoes (often called “B” potatoes) in salted water on the stovetop, then transfer them to skewers or a grill pan to finish. Serve with a dab of garlic butter. Sublime! In the meantime, here is one of my favorite potato recipes of all time, Steven’s Quadruple Smoked Potatoes.

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