Montepulciano Onion-braised Potatoes and How You Can Turn Them Into a One-pot Wonder
“The job turned out to be the biggest thing of its kind that I had ever been in. We began cheerfully, one might say, skittishly, but our lightheartedness was gone by the time the first potato was finished. The more we peeled, the more peel there seemed to be left on; by the time we had got all the peel off and the eyes out, there was no potato left.”
-Jerome K Jerome, Three Men In A Boat
This is how the potatoes we had at the Osteria del Borgo in Montepulciano (go to Montepulciano restaurant guide) were cooked… I think.
In any case, it’s easy and it’s very full of flavour. You certainly don’t have to fiddle around with peeling the potatoes.
It’s easy, but what you do need to allow is time – this is hearty slow food – it can take up to an hour and a half.
These potatoes go well with everything – steak, creamy fish… or, as suggested below, chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta and wrapped in bacon.
If you feel too lazy to produce anything green in addition you can simply add, five minutes before taking the potatoes out, some artichoke hearts from a jar. If you do this, use some of the olive (choose your jar carefully) oil in the jar for the cooking of the potatoes, and you can use any left over for cooking the steak or whatever other protein source you’re using.
An alternative approach (a Nigel Slater idea) is to cook more or less as described below but leave out the onion. Meanwhile, bring double cream to the boil, take off the heat, and then infuse with a few cloves of black garlic. Drain the potatoes loosely, pour over the cream, bring back to a simmer and serve.
Recipe for soft potatoes braised with onion
- 2 medium sized potatoes, ideally floury (go here for a list)
- 1 lemon
- 1 onion
- Couple of sprigs of rosemary (or you could use a bay leaf, or oregano)
- Smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil – or more, at least enough so that the whole thing is not in the least dry
- 3 tbsp dry vermouth – I use Noilly Prat for choice
- Preheat the oven to 210ºC
- Scrub the potatoes well, and cut into smallish pieces. I don’t bother to peel my potatoes, but the restaurant did!
- Cut the lemon up into quarters
- Cut the onion across its middle, take off the peel, and chop off the ends without allowing it to fall to pieces
- Put all into a casserole, squeezing the lemon pieces a little as you put them in
- Add the rosemary, the oil (use the oil in the artichoke jar if you are planning to add artichokes near the end of the cooking) and the seasoning.
- Cook for about half an hour, and then add the vermouth – again, you may judge that you need more than 3 tbsps. If the potatoes look as if they are roasting, rather than braising, lower the oven temperature to 180°C.
- Return to the oven and cook for another half hour. Then check again. They may need another half hour – if they do, stir first, check whether or not you need to add a bit more liquid, and then return to the oven.
Recipe for turning these potatoes into a one-pot wonder with chicken
For two people with different appetites you will need:
- 5 slices of chicken breast
- 10 slices of thinly sliced bacon
- 5 tbsp ricotta
- freshly ground pepper
- probably you will need a couple of sloshes more of dry vermouth
- one jar of artichoke hearts
- pepper the slices of chicken
- put the ricotta at one end and roll
- roll one slice of bacon over that
- roll the other slice at right angles so that it covers over the bare, ricotta-revealing ends of the roll
- about half way into the cooking of the potatoes, lower the oven temperature to 180°C, turn the potatoes and add the rolled up chicken. If it looks a bit dry add more dry vermouth.
- about 15 minutes later, again check it’s not looking dry (if it is add more vermouth) and turn the chicken and the potatoes again
- five minutes before the hour is up for the potatoes add in the drained artichokes.