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6.23.2008

In its frilly finest

I love having house guests. It has been brought to my attention that this is perhaps not a very common or popular stance, but I am sticking by it. As a general concept, I think house guests are pretty great. It’s like having a slumber party, only you can cuss without getting in trouble, and the mean girl from second grade isn’t around to make you cry anymore, and instead of Dr. Pepper and Funyuns, you can share such things as salami and cherries and bottles of rosé and pappardelle with bagna cauda, wilted radicchio, and eggs fried in olive oil. I think we can all get behind that.


This past weekend, my friend Leah came up from California for a visit. A couple of months ago, over some cookies and milk at Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, I had suggested that she come to Seattle, and I must have been very persuasive, because she arrived on Friday morning, just in time for lunch.

The unofficial focal point of the visit was to be a day trip to Mount Rainier on Saturday, a trek we dubbed the First Annual Summer Solstice Picnic and Hike. However, as it happened, it was cold and rainy on the mountain, and the trail we wanted to take was buried under eight feet of snow, so our “picnic” took place in the car and our “hike” turned into a brisk 25-minute walk on a different, shorter trail. But it was okay, because Leah had some very cheering dirty jokes up her sleeve, and there is no situation that cannot be improved with a rousing impersonation of [warning: noisy link] Shooby Taylor. And thankfully, the other parts of the weekend went off without a hitch, and they involved even more important things, like cookies that taste like toffee, the aforementioned pasta, and Hasselback potatoes.


Have you ever had a Hasselback potato? It’s a Swedish invention, named for the restaurant in Stockholm that introduced them in the 1700s, and it’s traditionally comprised of a whole potato that has been peeled and cut to resemble a fan, dotted with butter, baked, and then topped with fine bread crumbs and broiled. When properly made, a Hasselback potato is crisp on top and creamy inside, a perfect hybrid of a roasted potato and a baked potato, dressed in its frilly finest. It’s tasty, but it’s also very old-fashioned, the kind of side dish usually relegated to stuffy, stodgy, white-tablecloth restaurants with waiters in starched vests. Until recently, I had never given it much thought. But one day a week or two ago, Brandon happened to mention the Hasselback potato, and the idea lodged itself in my mind - right beneath, come to speak of it, all those Shooby Taylor lyrics - and when it came time to decide on that night’s dinner, I thought, Hasselback potatoes.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t particularly interested in the usual version, which would necessitate obtaining bread crumbs and pulling out the vegetable peeler. What I wanted was the pure heart of the Hasselback, which is to say a potato that straddles the line between roasted and baked, and that happens to be pretty too. So we made a rustic version. We bought some red potatoes, scrubbed them, and cut slits into them from the top down, so that they would fan open like accordions when they baked. Then, for extra flavor, we slipped slices of garlic down into the slits of some of the potatoes and, into the slits of others, some bits from a broken bay leaf. Then we drizzled them with olive oil, salted them generously, and baked them until they opened like strange flowers and their skins were wrinkled and crisp. We ate them with salmon fillets that Brandon had rubbed with crème fraîche and baked, and aside from the fact that there was way too much bay leaf in a few of the potatoes - see photo above - and one of us whose initials are MW proclaimed them “crazy, and not in a good way,” there was a lot of appreciative moaning around the table that night.

So when I thought about what to make for Leah on Friday evening for her first meal in Seattle, I decided that it was a perfect excuse for more Hasselback potatoes. This time, we flavored them with thin slices of shallot, which we all declared to be quite lovely, and we ate them with ratatouille and homemade lamb sausages. They’re just potatoes, of course, cut in a fancy way and jammed into the oven, but they’re oddly charming somehow. They look a little like roly polys, actually, which pleases me tremendously. (Is it bad to describe your food by likening it to a bug? Yes? No?) For lunch yesterday, I ate the leftovers with my fingers, dipping them into a small pile of salt on the side of the plate, and I highly recommend it. And though I do love house guests, I don’t intend to wait for another before I make them again.



Rustic Hasselback Potatoes

For this preparation, I like to use potatoes that are roughly the size of tennis balls.

Red or white potatoes, medium to large in size
Optional: thinly sliced garlic or shallots, fresh rosemary, bay leaves, butter
Olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Rinse (and scrub, if necessary) the potatoes, and dry them well. Working with one potato at a time, place it in the well of a wooden spoon, the kind you would use for stirring a pot of soup. Starting at one end of the potato and working toward the other, make a series of crosswise vertical cuts about ¼ inch apart, taking care not to cut all the way through the potato. The wooden spoon should help with this; the knife will hit the sides of the spoon before it can go all the way through the potato.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. You can either leave them plain, as is, or you can now season them by slipping herb or aromatics into the cuts. If you want to use garlic or shallots, slip a small slice into each cut. If you want to use rosemary, wedge 1 small sprig into one of the center cuts. If you want to use bay leaves, slip 1 whole leaf into one of the center cuts. (Do not use more than 1 bay leaf, and do not be tempted to crumble it into bits to put in multiple cuts. Use only 1 leaf in 1 cut. See story above.) Then, whether you have seasoned them or not, drizzle the potatoes with oil. You’ll want to sort of open the cuts with your fingers while you drizzle, so that some of the oil gets down inside, and use nice amount of oil – not a dainty little wisp, but also not a huge splash. Sprinkle generously with salt.

Slide the baking sheet into the oven, and bake until the tops are crispy and the potatoes are cooked through, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serve hot - and, if you like, topped with a finishing sliver of butter.

Note: My friend Hannah makes an especially daring version of the Hasselback. I love her.

77 Comments:

Blogger Kitt said...

How clever! Looks quite delicious, and easier than roasting individual slices.

I'm sending a link to a friend whose son loves roly-polies, too. I'll bet they'll be a hit with him.

10:39 PM, June 23, 2008  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Molly, loved your Sweet Adeline shoutout! It's one of my favorites in Berkeley. Of course, there are many...

And love the potatoes!! They don't look stodgy at all.

11:01 PM, June 23, 2008  
Anonymous Aria said...

OOH!! I have potatoes from our CSA basket and so this will be perfect. Thanks, Molly!

11:05 PM, June 23, 2008  
Blogger Allison Fouse said...

Oh, they do look like roly polys. Ha! Yes, I would be quite happy to eat some potato roly polys.

11:05 PM, June 23, 2008  
Blogger stacy said...

These sound good. DO you by chance, have a recipe for sugar cookies, but ones that are bigger, thicker, and not crunchy but chewy? I've been looking for a year and haven't found a good one yet.

11:36 PM, June 23, 2008  
Anonymous Punga said...

Hey Molly - I love this blog - I really do enjoy your baked goods recipes...so elegant and popular with my friends! I wanted to let everyone know about my new blog, Tingling Tastebuds, based in Canada at http://tinglingtastebuds.blogspot.com/ Cheers!

1:09 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Michelle said...

I once saw Nigella make these, and if I remember correctly, she sprinkled rice flour on top before baking. I really like your idea of the shallots and garlic. Can't go wrong with garlic and potatoes in my opinion.

1:17 AM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous kosenrufu mama said...

i really love those potatos i use to cook them and they are so delicius!!!!!

2:46 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Laura @ Hungry and Frozen said...

Those potatoes look pretty ultimate. Do you suppose it matters if you use floury or waxy potatoes? They sound delish :)

3:51 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger shari said...

cute and delicious. i'm charmed. xo

3:52 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Aran said...

that sounds absolutely delicious! never heard of them but i love potatoes any way, shape or form. and you are making me want to call all my friends up, have them hop on a plane and come see me!

4:19 AM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous Dana McCauley said...

I'm not so much on the house guest band wagon but I do like having friends over to nosh. (Hotels were invented for a reason, me thinks).

Glad to hear there are others out there who are more generous with their personal space.

4:59 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Rich Terrell said...

Something new for me to try this weekend - these look very appealing.

5:36 AM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am glad that you're back and writing again!

5:48 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Victoria said...

These look terrific. I wonder if sage would be good stuck inside those potatoes. What do you think?

I missed your June 16th post. I don't know how - you're on my Reader - but congratulations are in order to you.

And as that was my birthday, it turns out that carrot cake was my birthday cake! Thanks.

5:58 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Camille said...

Roly Polys...brings back wonderful childhood memories and now I have the perfect food to remind me of them!

By the way, I love having a house guests, too.

6:13 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger hannah said...

molly. all the way through this post i just kept thinking to myself, she's not using enough butter... until i got to the end. nice touch my friend. nice touch. i love you too.

6:46 AM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous EB said...

I just can't get past the "Dr. Pepper and Funyuns"! I mean for us it was Bugles (which of course you put on your fingers)... but oh the memories... :)

7:01 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger reya said...

I have some rosemary in my herb garden which are begging to be included in this dish. Looks exceptionally good..will have to try soon.

7:23 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Tracey said...

I also love houseguests and entertaining! The more, the merrier! With my small family, guests mean I can try out new dishes and new tablescapes! What fun!

7:43 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Zoomie said...

I'm with you, Molly, having house guests is lots of fun, even when it rains!

7:43 AM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous sue bette said...

I haven't heard of the Hasselback and I am really looking forward to trying them out.

7:48 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger charlotte s said...

i'm with you on the house guests! we have a friend staying with us this week, and i'm thoroughly enjoying it! late night discussions over a bottle of wine... long breakfasts (this morning we had eggs, cheeses, toast, muffins, melon :) )... rediscovering the touristic and not-so touristic parts of the city.... i love it.

8:04 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Briana said...

I don't think you'd want food that looked like a praying mantis, but roly polies are OK.

And these look Yummy and cute, too! Mmm....

9:03 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger tony said...

Hi Molly! The spuds look divine but where was the recipe for the toffee biscuits??? I was hoping for a link, a description......

You've probably guessed I'm not impartial to toffee and caramel!

9:05 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger emily said...

ohhh, i love hasselback potatoes. we make them at easter sometimes, or with salmon like you said. I like them sprinkled with grated parmesan and basted with more butter just before the last 10 minutes of baking. gorgeous. thanks for the history, too - i've always wondered

10:14 AM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous Leah said...

Me? Tell dirty jokes? Never! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy a nutritious breakfast of Barfy Bumps before I go to the doctor to have this nasty case of kneasles looked at.

PS - Molly is the most fantastic weekend slumber party hostess imaginable. And Brandon too! I adore you wonderful people.

PPS - I'm not just saying that to be invited back for the Second Annual Summer Solstice "Picnic" and "Hike." I'm saying it to be invited back to eat more toast with strawberry jam and entire sheets of cookies while laughing hysterically to the soothing strains of Shooby "I Blow Myself" Taylor.

PPPS - That is not a dirty joke.

10:15 AM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous Rachelino said...

Ooh! An application for the potato I haven't tried! Thanks, Molly. I will try your rustic hasselback potato this week! I would have immediately ditched the bread crumbs as well. This inspires me to post my recipe for tuna twice-baked potatoes. (I need to work on the name though...it tastes WAY better than it sounds.)

10:34 AM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger angesinclair said...

Tony beat me to my main question - what about those cookies you just dangled out there? Just the mention of toffee-tasting cookies made my mouth water! Don't get me wrong, I love potatoes and I'm excited to try them this way (which somehow straddles the delicious fence between fancy and homemade), but please, share your cookie recipe :)

11:27 AM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous Hillary said...

What an adorable way of slicing a potato. I love it!

11:57 AM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous robin said...

i never knew these potatoes had a name - these are one of our family's staples. we usually put thinly sliced onion in the slits, wrap them in foil and throw them on the bbq.

2:08 PM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger sara said...

I have never seen or heard of this before, how charming! I think I'll make these for my brother next time he comes to visit.

2:26 PM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous SarahKate said...

I had a childhood friend who ate roly polys. I wonder how she would feel about these?

I live in Australia and Delicious food magazine recently featured a recipe for Hasselback potatoes that called for a slice of soft cheese, like brie, to be draped across the potatoes before the final broil. Heaven!

4:34 PM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous caroline said...

Easy. How come I hadn't heard of it or thought of it myself? harumph Sounds like a fabulous weekend!

4:39 PM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What IS a roly-poly? Is it like what we (in Skagit Co) called a 'cutworm'? Although they also kind of resemble a sowbug, too.

On a more appetizing note, I also want to know about the toffee cookie recipe!

5:46 PM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Molly said...

Oh, my sweet goodness, that photo of the potatoes is absolutely stunning!

6:34 PM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Ai Lu said...

I was also thinking of houseguests when I posted on my blog yesterday...though yours seem to be of a much pleasanter variety!

I love your writing and the whimsy that you bring to your blog. I have just begun to read it, after discovering your how-to columns in Bon Appetit and teaching myself how to make mayonnaise from your instructions. I can't wait to see your book!

Best,
Ai Lu

7:27 PM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Jayne said...

I have a confession and a testimonial: I made Hannah's version of Hasselback potatoes tonight for supper. I am sick, so I ate them in bed while wearing flannel jammies and drinking wine. (The confession.) The potatoes made me feel better, and that's the nicest thing I can say about any food. (The testimonial.) Thanks, Molly.

9:11 PM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Lynn said...

I love gnocchi for the rolypoly reason, too...:-)

11:27 PM, June 24, 2008  
Anonymous michelle @ TNS said...

heh, they DO look like roly-polys. but i want them.

if only it were baked potato weather. sigh.

12:02 PM, June 25, 2008  
Blogger Hungry Passport said...

re/those house guests: We live in LA, almost 2,000 miles from family and close friends back in Memphis. We’re so grateful for them to come that distance to see us that we’re glad for them stay in our home, as long as they don’t mind sleeping on the futon in the living room. So when we have house guests, we really HAVE them. We rely on food and cooking to help us get through the strain of total togetherness. Swapping recipes and techniques and sharing the kitchen chores—and sometimes leaving someone in the kitchen to work the magic all alone—all help build goodwill when everyone is feeling cranky from too much quality time. And sending them home with a bag of freshly made peanut brittle--and teaching them how to make it--helps assuage bad feelings if one of the cats announces, “I’ve had enough company!” and takes a whiz in a suitcase.

Of course, if your guests are people you trust with your jewelry box and your CD collection but not in your kitchen, maybe they SHOULD stay in a hotel!

p.s. We’re having Hasselbacks for din din tonight. Thanks!

6:32 PM, June 25, 2008  
Anonymous jules said...

loving the idea of these molly but just a quick question... what's the difference between roast potatoes and baked?

7:52 PM, June 25, 2008  
Blogger Bonbon Oiseau said...

Really great presentation-am excited to try these! I like the sound of these potatoes as well--almost like Hasselhoff!

4:09 AM, June 26, 2008  
Blogger Kitchen Bliss! said...

Hi! Love your blog! I got a chuckle because it looks like we both made pretty potatoes this past weekend!

8:49 AM, June 26, 2008  
Blogger Lynn said...

Cook's Country did an uber-precise version of these in one of the most recent issues. They called them "Crispy Baked Potato Fans" and used a topping of homemade breadcrumbs, melted butter, monterey jack cheese, Parm, paprika, garlic powder and salt and pepper.

10:21 AM, June 26, 2008  
Blogger Molly said...

Eeeek! So sorry to have not replied to your questions sooner, guys. Here goes:

Stacy, it sounds to me like what you're looking for is a snickerdoodle, minus the cinnamon. Most of the snickerdoodles I've had have been thick and chewy - just the sort of thing you're after. I don't have a go-to recipe for them, unfortunately, but you might try looking in some sort of classic cookbook, like The Joy of Cooking, or online. Good luck!

Laura @ Hungry and Frozen, I like to use waxy potatoes for this preparation - usually a red or white new potato - but I've seen other recipes that use floury ones.

Victoria, I think sage might be delicious here! I would stay on the cautious side at first and use only one whole leaf per potato - just to get the aroma of sage, sort of - and if you want more, next time you could bump up the quantity.

Tony and angesinclair and Anonymous, so sorry to get your hopes up! I think I might be writing about Leah's coffee / toffee cookies for Bon Appetit, so I can't share the recipe here just yet. But stay tuned...

Jules, a baked potato (in American lingo) is usually a potato roasted whole, with its skin still on - also known as a jacket potato. Roasted potatoes, on the other hand, are usually cut into pieces and tossed in some sort of fat before going into the oven.

10:21 AM, June 26, 2008  
Blogger NERINA said...

THIS BLOG MAKES ME WISH:) LOL

1:00 PM, June 26, 2008  
Blogger mindy said...

These are so much fun--I haven't heard of them before either. Are you writing a cookbook? (Have been busy and am new-ish to your blog.) I'll be keeping an eye out about that--best of luck, and how exciting!

2:41 PM, June 26, 2008  
Blogger ann said...

i tried these last night and they were simply wonderful. thanks!

4:50 PM, June 26, 2008  
Anonymous candice said...

i've been hearing about your website for so long, but have finally done myself the favor of reading it. I am thoroughly smitten with it, and its charming author. thanks for being so delightful, and sharing that delightfulness with the world.

5:42 PM, June 26, 2008  
Anonymous Carolyn Jung said...

I'd seen recipes for such potatoes before, but always hesitated on making them, thinking, "Really, are they THAT much better than regular roasted potatoes you just throw in the oven with none of that fancy cutting involved?'' Good to know that indeed they are worth the little extra work.

6:03 PM, June 26, 2008  
Anonymous Joe Horn said...

Looks great, thanks Molly. Not sure if you have the time, but I just posted some info on potatoes and some recipes on my site as well. Would love to hear your opinion.

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Joe
http://cookingquest.wordpress.com

6:03 PM, June 26, 2008  
Blogger Renee said...

How funny! Just this past weekend, we had whole potatoes, sliced in a very Hasselback manner. We didn't slice them all the way through - allowing the jacket to retain the shape. In between each slice, we placed a slice of onion and copius amounts of butter. Those potatoes were wrapped in foil and grilled. They were spectacular!!!!!!

8:41 PM, June 26, 2008  
Blogger jeunesse said...

Uuuuuuuuuuuummmmmm...Yummy.

8:58 PM, June 26, 2008  
Blogger Tiramisu said...

Thanks for the tasty recipe and your funny story!

3:21 PM, June 27, 2008  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Molly, I love your blog. The first time I came across it I had to read back through all the old posts . I am starting my own blog and included a link to yours. Please let me know if that is not ok with you. Your blog had inspired me in so many ways - chickpea salad quickly became a staple! Thank you!

8:12 PM, June 27, 2008  
Blogger amisha said...

i am with you on the house guests molly. it is so much fun. i am so looking forward to having my first guests in the city soon!
and i really love the idea of having a picnic in the car :)
the potatoes look beautiful and sound delicious!
xo

12:16 PM, June 28, 2008  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

I'd still like some funyons please!

3:27 PM, June 28, 2008  
Anonymous heylucy said...

I made these today, and they were just wonderful! My husband loved them too, and he generally thinks potatoes must either have gravy, or be french fried :o)

10:08 PM, June 29, 2008  
Blogger Magpie Ima said...

My word, these look scrumptious. However, given the evil heat wave we're having in Portland, it's going to be quite some time before I try them out. 400 degree oven? I don't think so!

12:18 AM, June 30, 2008  
Blogger Aaron Kagan said...

Looks great - the intersection of fancy and rustic is right up my alley. I'll be trying these as soon as taters are in season here in Mass.

www.teaandfood.blogspot.com

6:58 AM, June 30, 2008  
Blogger nomnomnom said...

I saw this post and tried these with some red potatoes... They were delish! Thank you Molly!

9:59 AM, June 30, 2008  
Anonymous Ms. Mystery said...

Those potatoes look lovely. I enjoyed this blog, as it was my first to read/see/listen to that you have written. I found you in bon appetit - reading about cheese souffles that made me feel homesick for a Paris in which I have never been. I enjoy your writing. Thank you.

7:15 PM, June 30, 2008  
Blogger Shelley said...

Molly-I thank you for 2 things. 1) Wonderful recipes that are simple enough to make when 2 toddlers are running around under foot.But I also thank you for being an inspiration. Your writing is articulate and enjoyable and has pushed me to restart my own food blog. So thank you. I will continue to link your blog to mine so more people can enjoy your wonderful site.

11:06 AM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Anne Marie said...

I've always been pretty intimidated by the recipes on your blog, but these potatoes look so great! So, last night I had a dinner party and I made them. Everyone was so impressed, and loved them... Thanks for a great, thorough, tasty recipe :)

7:22 AM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger virjennifer said...

These are so easy and look really yummy. I agree to the rolly polly reference, I bet kids would love them because of that.

4:38 PM, July 06, 2008  
Anonymous ioneluka said...

I cooked for my sun robert, this rustic potatoes, he just loved them.

3:05 AM, July 14, 2008  
Blogger Astrid said...

I have never had hasselback potatoes, but now I HAVE to make them. ASAP!

As always, I love your writings, Molly.

3:20 AM, July 15, 2008  
Blogger Emily said...

These were perfect with shallot, and your tip about using the wooden spoon was genius! How did you ever come up with it?

3:30 PM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger Molly said...

Emily, I wish I could take credit for the wooden spoon trick, but I can't! I read about it in a couple of places, and my friend Olaiya suggested it too.

3:36 PM, July 17, 2008  
Anonymous heylucy said...

I'm a little late to the party, but as soon as I saw this post I had to make me some Hasselback potatoes! I ended up putting slivers of shallots between the slices, and they were divine. If I make any kind of meat-and-potatoes sort of meal my husband feels like he should have gravy for his potatoes. I like gravy too, but sometimes it's just more than I want to do. He loved these, and never even mentioned the lack of gravy with the meal :o) I think he ate about three. They are now firmly entrenched in my cooking repetoire.

2:40 PM, July 18, 2008  
Blogger Alexia said...

I took these as inspiration, and I made them with giant roasting potatoes, SLICES OF TURKEY BACON between each little slice of goodness (cooked separately and then slipped in near the end), and grated ricotta salata over the top, and some mozz- mmmm. It was dinner. I love your blog! Thank you for all the recipes.

12:21 PM, July 23, 2008  
Anonymous przepisy kulinarne said...

I like to cook very at home. Greetings from Poland.

10:32 AM, August 09, 2008  
Blogger My Eco Self said...

I am in love with these potatoes. I'm making one for lunch - only 56 mins to go (it's a big one.) I'm making the garlic-studded variety and I haven't even got as far as thinking about what might go well with it - just a touch of butter, and I think the potato is all I need.

5:59 AM, August 26, 2008  
Blogger andrea said...

i just made these tonight, and they were so delicious! i thought i would only eat two of the three (baby yukon golds), but i ate all three! it's definitely my new favorite way to roast potatoes. yum.

9:30 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Rachelle said...

I came by to tell you thanks for the great recipe! I need a refresher course on these and saw yours. I added a few more seasongings to mine though.

You know what's funny, my oldest was sticking butter between each slice once they were baked, too.

Thanks! I just blogged about them!

9:42 AM, September 29, 2008  
Blogger Anne Marie said...

I just cooked these again! http://whatscookinmia.blogspot.com/2008/11/plenty-o-potatoes.html I love them so much. Thanks for a great recipe <3

5:56 PM, November 02, 2008  

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