3 Quick and Easy Potato Meals
Whoever dug up the first potato and cooked it has my eternal gratitude. How did they know potatoes were under the dirt in the first place? And how did they know they would become the be all, end all of so many people’s favorite food lists?
I don’t believe words can begin to explain how much I adore these simple, round, brown spuds that come out of the ground (actually, have you ever had the little purple ones?!). I love them so much that I’m trying to learn how to grow some of my own. I’ll never grow enough for all my needs, but it will be fun anyway.
Whatever it is about them that makes them so spectacular, I’ll leave that to a food writer to explain. For me, I just know they’re one of my favorite answers to the question, “What’s for dinner?” Especially because besides being delicious, they’re cheap. And for my husband and I who are teachers and both get paid once a month on the same day, that last week before payday can be a long one. Nothing better than knowing we can grab a bag of potatoes on the way home from school and make a dinner we will both enjoy.
For busy moms, older or younger, potatoes can solve a lot of meal time conundrums. And if you’ve spent any time at all in the kitchen, you know how to make these “recipes” without a recipe. These are guidelines on cooking by feel and taste. You don’t need me to tell you when your potatoes are cooked the way you like. You’ll know that.
Here are three staple ways we turn that bag of starch into something yummy and have leftovers to take to school the next day. Because really, there are a lot of things we like about being teachers, but eating school lunches isn’t one of them.
And though bacon always goes with potatoes, these three dishes are vegetarian if you don’t use it as a topping.
Here are three of our go to potato dinners.
Let’s start with the proverbial side dish of baked potatoes, but we’re going to make it the main course. This bridesmaid is going to finally be a bride. We have baked potatoes about once a week, except in summer when it’s too hot to use the oven that long.
When it comes to baking, we keep it simple. Wash the potatoes, pierce a few times with a steak knife, and place straight on the rack at 425 degrees. Depending on the size of the potato (we don’t always use baking potatoes), at about 30 minutes, take the potatoes out, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and place on a baking sheet. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.
To dress these babies up, we add all the toppings, usually butter, sour cream, green onions, red onions, shredded cheddar and bacon bits. Our daughter, Sylvia, has started putting French onion dip on her baked potato. Please don’t judge us.
Sometimes we coordinate baked potato night when we have leftover chili and use that as a topping. That’s one of my favorite ways to have a potato, so that’s how we usually eat up the last of our chili.
We sometimes add a side salad, but usually, these are stand alones for an easy meal that we consistently love.
The second potato meal we often have is a Spanish tortilla.
I was never sure if it was true that this dish is really called a tortilla in Spain, but turns out that’s the case. My daughter, Ellis, is currently in Spain. She says one of the most common meals her host mom serves is a “tortilla,” basically what we would call an omelette. Sometimes it has potatoes and sometimes not. But when in Spain, don’t call it an omelette. It’s definitely a tortilla.
For our Spanish tortillas, we always add potatoes, because, well, we love potatoes. To make, simply slice up potatoes and cook them in our cast iron skillet, seasoning to taste. (I like salt. I wish I didn’t, but I do). Cook until they’re golden, then pour in mixed eggs to cover the potatoes. Now be patient and cook on a low temperature until the eggs set up.
The challenge comes when placing a plate over the top of the tortilla and turning it out upside in one piece. I’ll be honest, we never actually make that happen. We just end up dishing out big chunks because, again, to be honest, we’re in it for the taste, not the look. But if you can get good at that technique, it does look really nice for a special occasion, like a brunch. Serve with a side of salsa, if you like. (Or ketchup. Don’t judge us and we won’t judge you.
The third dish is our favorite soup on the planet, potato soup. What is better on a cold evening than a bowl full of soup. And when it’s potato soup, then it’s the best.
Again, not much of a recipe here. We cut up enough potatoes for however many we’re serving and how hungry we might be and how much leftover soup we want. We roughly peel about half of them, but you can peel them all if you prefer. We like the peel, but to each family their own.
Cover with water, salt and boil. When they reach your desired tenderness, throw in some butter and milk to give it the creamy texture you like. Dish it up with some yummy bread and it’s carb heaven.
So now you have three meals you can quickly and cheaply add into your meal plan knowing you’ll almost always have the ingredients around for them.
And if you don’t, even if it’s the day before payday, you can grab that bag of potatoes and hopefully not overdraw your account.