I’ve been in a bit of a funk this past week, having a hard time motivating myself to get anything done. Whether it’s washing the dishes, exercising, or working on a few writing projects at hand — I feel like the most I can handle is making it through my regular workday. Traffic on the freeway has been increasingly getting worse as the days are getting darker, and I think the only thing getting me through my early mornings is NPR. The other day, I was listening to an interview with Grizzly Bear, hoping it would never end because it allowed me to zone out for a while and forget that I was still 30-some minutes away from making it to work.
I think we all go through these periods, and I won’t deny that as my belly expands further and further outward, I’m finding it difficult to stay as active as I’ve always been. Heck, putting on my shoes has, on occasion, proven to be a challenge. I’m not used to it! It’s strange to allow myself a Sunday afternoon that involves little more than a leisurely lunch and a nap. As September happens to be San Francisco’s nicest month, I always feel the need to be outside as much as possible on the weekends, soaking up the fresh air. But this past weekend, I spent most of my time at home, lounging. I did get a lot of cooking done, and enjoyed a nice dinner out with my family. But as Matt and I drove past a beer garden filled with city folks enjoying the late afternoon sun, all I could think about was going back to bed. And, in turn, the rest of the evening, I felt super bummy. Do you ever feel like your mind is trying to tell you you really want to do something, while your body just doesn’t want to cooperate?
I’m not one to relax well, so a part of me is thankful for this slower time. My energy seems to be in full force in the kitchen, where I have been allowing myself to enjoy the process even more, and not think so much about the end result. A number of my weekend experiments turned out to be delicious, and I can’t wait to share them with you soon. I’ll start with a dish that I think perfectly welcomes Fall. I’ve never met a person who didn’t like potatoes (hello? are you out there?) and, unless you’re a vegetarian, I’m pretty sure you won’t mind that these were roasted in duck fat. This dish was inspired by one I had at one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco (it’s called Outerlands, and no they do not take reservations). When a steaming hot little dish arrived at our table, with airy bonito flakes still dancing over some of the most aromatic potatoes I’d ever seen, I knew before I even took a bite that it would be something I’d recreate at home.
Bonito flakes, if you’re unfamiliar with them, are a staple of Japanese cooking. They are made from a fish (bonito) that is dried, fermented and then very thinly shaved. It’s used as a base for dashi (the broth used to make miso soup) and brings that elusive umami flavor to dishes. You can find bonito flakes in Asian grocery stores and use them as a flavor enhancer in soups, rice, and vegetable dishes. The duck fat (I knew you’d ask!) was actually left over from some duck breasts we made months ago. We saved the precious fat and stored it in the fridge for a special batch of potatoes. In general, roasting/frying potatoes in fat gives them a silkiness they just don’t get from oil. If you don’t have duck fat, I imagine you can experiment with other types of fat (or you can purchase duck fat from the grocery store).
I think if anything were to help elevate my week and yours, it might just be a bowl of these potatoes (and this breakfast mix).
Duck Fat-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Bonito Flakes
inspired by Outerlands
1/4 cup of duck fat (solidified is fine)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
bonito flakes, to taste
approximately 1 pound of fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons of thinly sliced green onion stalks (green parts only)
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Add the duck fat to a heavy bottomed cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high. When the fat is melted/hot, add the potatoes and toss briefly until they’re well-coated in the fat.
3. Place the skillet in the oven and roast potatoes, stirring and rotating the skillet occasionally, for 20-30 minutes (or until the potatoes are soft and blistered).
4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the green onion.
5. Transfer potatoes to a serving dish or individual dishes and top with bonito flakes (we used about a tablespoon or so per individual dish). Serve hot.
Musical Pairings: Wild Nothing – Nocturne + Duck Fat-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Bonito Flakes
More on the Turntable.