Thereafter I understood: St. Patrick's Day is taken seriously in Chicago. And it's a great excuse for an all-day party in cold and dreary March.
Since then, I've created various recipes for getting in the mood, including a flank steak marinated in Guinness. But this year, I decided to focus on that other staple of the Irish diet, the potato. And in honour of Chicago, I made it a "green" potato recipe.
I actually make these potatoes at home all year. It is one of those simple recipes that everyone asks for and can be cooked on the grill or in the oven. On the grill, you put the potatoes directly onto the cooking grates over indirect heat (I use the warming rack on my grill). To make the potatoes in the oven, you set the potatoes on a rack set over a baking sheet. That way the hot air circulates around the potatoes, crisping them perfectly.
These crispy roasted potatoes are crunchy on the outside and soft and silky inside. So much so, you don't need the addition of butter or sour cream to make them creamy. But they do get even better when tossed in a green herb and garlic sauce.
The sauce is a simple uncooked sauce made from fresh green herbs, spices, garlic, shallots, lemon juice and olive oil. The hot roasted potatoes absorb all the flavours of the fresh herbs and the touch of lemon juice balances the starch, making for a light and almost refreshing potato side dish similar to a hot potato salad. And, they look great on the plate!
The potatoes also are just as good served cold the next day, so refrigerate any leftovers and serve with sandwiches for a new take on potato salad.
ROASTED "GREEN" POTATOES
Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active)
24 small red potatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the sauce:
4 cups lightly packed chopped curly parsley (1 to 2 bunches)
2 cups fresh basil (or blend of fresh herbs)
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons minced shallot or onion
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
Heat a gas or charcoal grill and set for indirect medium heat grilling. Alternatively, heat the oven to 350 F.
Place the potatoes in a large bowl or large zip-close plastic bag. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and toss again to coat evenly.
If cooking on the grill, place the potatoes directly on the cooler side of the grill. If cooking in the oven, set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and place the potatoes on the rack. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the potato skins are lightly puffed and the insides are tender. You do not need to turn the potatoes during cooking.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until chopped well, but not liquefied. For a blender, it's best to start with the liquid ingredients and end with the parsley.
As soon as the potatoes are done, transfer them to a large serving bowl. Drizzle the sauce, about 1/4 cup at a time, over the potatoes and toss well to coat. You may have some sauce left over. Serve immediately or chill and serve cold.
Nutrition information per serving of potatoes: 140 calories; 40 calories from fat (29 per cent of total calories); 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 3 g protein; 330 mg sodium.
Nutrition information per 2 tablespoons of sauce: 100 calories; 90 calories from fat (90 per cent of total calories); 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 1 g protein; 130 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned."