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Puglian Potatoes

This image courtesy of Michael Potts

I love potatoes—mashed, scalloped, or simply oven baked. How such a simple and lowly vegetable can turn into creamy lushness continually amazes me. This dish takes potatoes to a new level and adds layers of flavor that make this Cinderella vegetable shine. There are many variations of this dish in Puglia—some with rice, others without. This is one of the simplest versions, and it is perfect by itself or as an accompaniment to roasted fish or meat.

NotesOlio Santo

This brilliant invention is a staple on every table in the Salento peninsula in the southern part of Puglia. Olio Santo is a spicy-hot olive oil made by adding dried red peppers (or crushed red pepper). After several days, the olive oil absorbs the flavor of the peppers and becomes very spicy. It is a perfect condiment for Puglian dishes such as Puglian potatoes, beans and greens, or oven-roasted green peppers, or even simple fresh bread and some good cheese.

Olive-oil purists object to flavored olive oils, but I find this combination better than the sum of its parts. It is true that the flavor of the olive oil does not come through quite as purely as it might otherwise, but drizzled over a simple Puglian dish, this oil shines.

1 part dried red peppers or crushed red pepper flakes

4 parts good olive oil

1. Combine the peppers or pepper flakes and olive oil. Let sit for several days in a cool, dark spot. Use judiciously.

6 servings

Cooking Methodbaking

CostInexpensive

Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course, side dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturejuicy, salty, sweet, umami

Type of Dishvegetable

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (59 mL) olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • ¾ cup (177 mL) breadcrumbs
  • ¾ cup (177 mL) grated pecorino cheese
  • Salt, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Olio santo, for drizzling (see Notes)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

  2. In an enameled cast-iron pot, pour half the olive oil and spread it around to cover the bottom of the pot. Layer 1/3 of the sliced onions in the bottom of the pot, add a layer of potatoes and a layer of tomatoes, and sprinkle with some breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, and red pepper flakes. Continue layering, finishing with a layer of bread crumbs, cheese, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil, pour in enough water to come halfway up the layered vegetables, and bake for about 1½ hours, or until the potatoes are soft.

  3. Serve drizzled with some Olio Santo for heat and spiciness.

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