Cartofi Taranesti

“Country-style or ‘peasant’ potatoes”

cartofi taranesti1

Cartofi taranesti are a particularly common side dish in Romanian restaurants and the recipes for them vary from place to place, region to region. The essential recipe, however, remains more or less the same. They obviously originate from the home cooking of the countryside being cooked on the open hearth or wood burning stove. When done well they are soft on the inside, a little crispy on the outside, and perfumed by the other added ingredients. Many recipes simply add onions but I’ve always loved them with the bacon lardons and a touch of garlic, but you can omit them if you like (or if you don’t eat meat, of course). They would also work well with rosemary or thyme.

5 or 6 smallish potatoes (larger potatoes can be used but would need to be boiled longer)
One onion, roughly chopped
Two or three cloves of garlics, crushed and chopped (optional)
A scant cup of diced fatty bacon, smokey works well (optional)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Chopped parsley (or any fresh herb you have handy)
Cooking oil (can be olive oil or even butter – again, whatever you have to hand)

1. Wash any mud off the potatoes and put them into enough cold water to cover them plus an inch. Bring to the boil and allow them to boil until a fork can pierce them easily. Be careful not to over-boil them, you want them to hold their shape when you fry them later.
2. Once sufficiently part-boiled, probably 20-30 minutes depending on their size, drain them and fill the pan with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them quicker.
3. Peel off the skin with your fingers (it comes off easily, no need to use a peeler) and cut them into rounds, each about 10mm thick. (Note: alternatively you can peel them first, cut them into rounds or wedges, and then boil them.)
4. Put another pan on a medium heat and add the bacon pieces (if using) and fry them till some of the fat is extracted, then add a few more splashes of oil, butter, or lard. If you aren’t using bacon, just add oil and heat.
5. Once the bacon has taken on a brown colour (or the oil has warmed up, if not using bacon) add the chopped onion and allow to soften for a couple of minutes, stirring ocassionally. Then throw in the garlic (if using) and continue to fry for another minute or two. It should be smelling lovely by now!
6. Arrange the sliced potatoes in the pan and allow to fry for about 10-15 minutes. Flip them from time to time, move the top ones to the bottom, but don’t stir them too vigorously or too frequently or you won’t give them time to develop a crispy brown coat, and too much stirring will mean you end up with an oily mash.
7. When they are nicely brown, serve them in a bowl or alongside the main, season with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of parsley (or another fresh herb). A dash of paprika is also a popular addition.

Gorgeous, hearty, warming, and moorish. They’ll go with more or less anything or will happy stand alone as a centre-of-the-table nibble. Easily as good as a nicely roasted potato (and those are hard to beat).

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