The "silly season" seems to have materialized this year suddenly and with a vengeance. I had nary a moment at home last week which, for one who appreciates the draw of the hearth as much as I do, was a bit discombobulating. Now don't get me wrong, I love a good party just as much as the next girl, but to go an entire week without eating at home is rare for me indeed.
Last Monday Paul and I attended, along with a couple of friends, a dress rehearsal of Sting's concert at St. John the Divine (the cathedral, which embarrassingly I had never set foot in before, was indeed divine). Our host had warned us ahead of time that there would be no hits played, and a sneak peek at the set list revealed that not only would there be no hits, but there would not be one song any of us recognized played that evening. I won't lie, I was nervous.
It turned out to be a delightful evening of wintry folkish songs in the end. Some sort of baby bagpipes were played by a fetching young woman who doubled as a extremely able fiddler, a lute made more than one appearance, and we were even serenaded by an adorable boy's choir from Newark. And Sting, decked out in a sexy version of Victorian men's garb, conversed with the audience. A very different vibe than I recalled from the Police tour a year or two ago.
Anyway, in his introduction, which the New York Times appropriately dubbed PBS-like, he described the draw of winter as being the idea of a cozy home serving as a oasis amidst the inclimate winter weather. Now when I think of cozy I think of fires in fireplaces. Tragically I do not have a fireplace. So my thoughts meandered to the warm spot in my apartment...the oven, which is quite heavily used in the winter months, and by extension the kitchen. And then obviously, my train of thought, as it so often does, settled on food as an endpoint.
As were were uptown, quite far from home, our need for food ended up being satisfied with some of Charles Gabriel's fabulous fried chicken even farther uptown. Mr. Gabriel's talent with a fry pan and extraordinary hospitality went quite a long way towards replicating the pleasures of home, but I was still craving something from my own stove.
So in a brief stolen moment at home I, thinking back to Sting's wise words, opted for something warm, unchallenging and fortifying. Potatoes are by far the most inspiring item at the farmer's market at the moment (I am not being sarcastic here, the varieties that Paffenroth brings week after week boggle the mind) so I had (and actually, still have) massive quantities of them on the kitchen counter. Home fries seemed the obvious choice. With such fabulous potato specimens why not let them shine, relatively unobscured?
I started with an onion sliced in half moons, and fried it slowly in olive oil until the pieces were meltingly tender. Next, after a bit more olive oil, I threw in some boiled potatoes, cut into healthy sized pieces, to fry away. After a few crusts began to form, I sprinkled over half teaspoon or so of smoked paprika...a spice I have to admit I still haven't gotten all that into but which I love with potatoes...and tossed in some chopped parsley for freshness.
And then I defiled the whole carefully calibrated endeavor with ketchup. It was perfection.