Cacio e Pepe Smashed New Potatoes

Summer of 2017 will go down in family history as the summer House Morell was temporarily transformed into a frat house.  With better food (thank God), less beer, and a whole lot of sports. Until last June, I had no clue that college football games run 24 hours a day on cable.  I now know better.

During the annual intern season in DC, college kids from UChicago move East to take all that book learning and try contributing to society for a couple of months.  Word was out we had an extra bedroom, a rather large TV, and tasty snacks, so in addition to our own two boys, we had one of their fraternity brothers. Added to that was a constellation of a half-dozen other college kids and recent grads who routinely joined us for dinner.  Most nights, we hosted roughly 6-8 hungry interns. One evening, there were 13 of us piled around the table. We’ve had raucous debates over sports, economic policy, international relations, and politics (when things really get heated). It was terrific fun.

And I’m the gal leading the culinary program.  Of course. While I would never join the Saturday morning basketball ritual (ha!), I’ve improved my game for feeding a crowd.  This crew is a very handy test kitchen. On grilling nights, these Cacio e Pepe Potatoes have become a staple around here. Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside and dusted with a classic cheesy-peppery Italian flavor combination, they disappear in large quantities whenever I serve them.  Bonus: they’re super easy to make. Because that’s what summer cooking is all about.

Start with baby (or new) potatoes - I’m a fan of the little waxy Yukon Golds, but fingerlings or red potatoes or those funky Peruvian purple potatoes all work as well.  Toss them in a bit of olive oil, and dust generously with salt and pepper. Roast on high heat for 25 minutes or so (this may be a bit less if you have really tiny spuds). Pull them out of the oven, then using a meat pounder or the flat bottom of a glass, crush them until the sides split and you can see a bit of the baked interior.  Then pop them back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

I time these little guys so that they go into the oven 20-30 minutes before the grill master pops the meat on, and task one of the kids to smashing duty.  Usually, they’re just about done as the meat is resting.

Things that I’m crushing on at the moment:

For my Virginia peeps: The new Northside Social location in Falls Church has finally opened.  They make a perfect cortado, and offer a seriously drool-worthy baked goods selection.

What I've been reading: I finished Coming to My Senses by Alice Waters last night.  To be honest, I found the story a bit meandering, but I was intrigued by her time in France and London as a student, and fascinated to learn how limited produce options were in California in the late 1960s.  Amazing that she opened Chez Panisse when she was only 27 years old.  

Yoga at home?  Yoga with Adriene has become my go-to workout when I can't find time to go out for a workout.  Love the workouts (Stress Melt! Yoga for Confidence! Deep Stretch!)  Give her a try...

xo

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Cacio e Pepe Smashed New Potatoes

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs new potatoes (I like yukon gold, but fingerling, red or purple potatoes would also work)
  • 3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (but at least 1 tablespoon black pepper)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan or pecorino cheese (you are welcome to add more to taste.)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Toss the potatoes in a bit of olive oil, and dust generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread them on a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  
  4. Roast for 25 minutes at 400F.
  5. Pull the sheet out of the oven. Using a meat pounder or the flat bottom of a glass, crush them until the sides split and you can see a bit of the baked interior.  
  6. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the potatoes, then pop them back in the oven for 20 minutes.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature.  My daughter loves them with a bit of garlic aioli or chipotle mayo.