Lavender Mashed Potatoes

lavender potatoes croppedHow is this for a garish plate? The mashed potatoes are made with Purple Peruvians, an old fingerling variety with the most intensely purple flesh I’ve ever seen in a potato (though not all of the tubers are solid purple; some are marbled purple and white). When I made baked chips for a dry-farmed potato tasting last year, I I had trouble with the Purple Peruvians; they needed much more time in the oven than the other varieties before they would dry out and turn crisp. Still, as chips they were the second favorite of five varieties among a big roomful of food enthusiasts, and as boiled potatoes they nearly tied for second place.

Purple Peruvian potato
Purple Peruvian, eager to get into the ground

But what Purple Peruvians are best for, in my opinion, is mashing. I like the way the lavender mashed potatoes stand out here beside cooked mixed greens from the garden and the tomato-citrus jam, thinned with soy sauce, that tops the albacore steak. And these mashed potatoes don’t just sport a pretty color. They truly taste as good as they look.

You don’t need a recipe to make Purple Peruvian mashed potatoes. Fingerlings can be hard to peel completely, but I simply strip off the skins with a vegetable peeler and ignore the many eyes. I boil the potatoes in just a little salted water, so they are cooked mostly by steam. When they are tender, only a very little water is left in the pan. I then add milk and butter to the hot potatoes, set the pan over low heat until the butter melts, and purée the contents with an electric mixer. I can beat the potatoes for quite a long time without their becoming gluey.

I haven’t grown this potato myself before—the ones I’ve used were left over from the tasting—but I will make room for one in my little garden. The Maine Potato Lady  tells me what to expect of the plant: These potatoes are late, frost-tolerant, pest-resistant, and, like the Makah Ozette, “rangy”—by which she means you have to search widely to find all the tubers if you don’t want them volunteering the following year.

I think I may welcome those volunteers.

Makah Ozette Fries

Ozette friesNow that my Makah Ozette potatoes are sprouting in the basement, I’m trying to find ways to use them faster. Everybody eats more potatoes when they come to the table in the form of French fries, right? So last night I made some Ozette fries.

I’ve used russets, all-purpose potatoes, and waxy potatoes for French fries, but none have produced such distinctive fries as the Ozette. They turned out crisp on the outside, dry on the inside, and surprisingly rigid. This is the potato for anybody who dislikes limp fries.

I’d imagined the coriander chutney as a good accompaniment to the fries, but I preferred the potatoes with the roasted tomatoes as sauce. Because the potatoes lack sweetness, the candy-sweet Sungold-Juliette mix complemented them wonderfully. Next time I might consider frying the potatoes in small chunks and dropping them all straight into the bowl of hot tomatoes.

The coriander chutney did get eaten—it proved a perfect accompaniment to the pan-fried albacore belly that rounded out this meal.

The chutney, tomatoes, and tuna all came out of the freezer, so slicing and frying potatoes was the only real work involved in preparing this little feast.