Saturday, December 12, 2009

No Sweat - Sweatbox Potatoes with Herbs and Butter

Sweatbox Potatoes

I can only speak for myself, but Christmas feels a little early this year. Perhaps it's because the tonnage of pumpkins and various other squashes I trudged home with over a month ago are still waiting for their debuts in various soups, breads, and custards; they are configured on the floor in something of an obstacle course at the threshold of the kitchen. Remarkably, I have not lost any to those queasy spots of dry rot nor lost my footing stepping around them. Clearly, I am pressing my luck, and clearly, I have to hack and seed the lot of them, if only I didn't get distracted with so many other goodies. No, I'm not talking about Christmas cookies (not yet, anyway), nor wassail bowls, nor any other traditional December tiding recipes. I'm talking about potatoes. New potatoes, actually, the kind that are tiny as marbles, and often mistaken for pearl onions in netted bags unless you take a closer look. You can sometimes find them loose in bins among the "older" new spuds, the ones of fingerling length or as big as a baby's fist. You don't come across them very often, and you may well pass them by not knowing quite what to do with them. Boiling can get pretty boring.

But sliding in a gleam of hot butter in a big, old skillet, skins shrink wrapped and clinging with herbs, is a marvel of culinary economy, comforting carbs, and a clever, quick little appetizer to spear with toothpicks, served straight from the pan for informal gatherings. Sure, I feel guilty for neglecting the orange, green, and yellow boulders on my floor. But at fifteen minutes start-to-finish to prepare sweatbox potatoes, there's really nothing to sweat about.

Teeny, Tiny New Potatoes

Sweatbox Herb and Butter Potatoes - My mother's recipe, the origin a mystery.

Serves 3-4.


1 pound tiny new potatoes, washed but not peeled. Do not dry. Nick out any "eyes" that might have sprouted, and discard any potatoes that are green under the delicate skin. Green potatoes are toxic and cannot be eaten.
2-3 tablespoons butter or oil (Use the maximum measure for a skillet that does not have non-stick coating.)
1 handful mixed fresh herb leaves, rinsed and patted dry (I used rosemary, thyme, and sage; if using dried herbs, reduce amounts to 1 teaspoon each.)
1 teaspoon or more sea salt crystals or flakes
A few cranks ground black pepper


Choose a large skillet with a well-fitting lid. Place wet potatoes in skillet, then turn the heat up to medium. Shake the skillet to redistribute the potatoes as the water evaporates. When the skillet is dry and hot, add the butter or oil. It will immediately sizzle. Shake the skillet again to cover the potatoes with the hot fat. Cover the skillet tightly; do not let any steam escape. (This is how the sweating starts.) Turn heat down to medium-low. Let the potatoes cook for about 3 minutes, then shake the skillet. Cook for another 3 minutes, then shake the skillet again. Remove lid quickly to pierce the largest potato with a skewer and check for browning. If it's still hard, and/or the potatoes aren't uniformly browned, close the lid and cook another few minutes, shaking the skillet once again.

Continue to cook, shake, and test every few minutes until that same largest potato is tender, and they are all fully browned. Remove potatoes to a warm bowl, then toss herbs into hot skillet. Fry them in the sheen of fat until dark and a little crispy. Return potatoes to skillet, shaking to cover them with the herbs. Turn the heat off, cover the skillet one last time, and let it sit on the hot burner for 1-2 minutes. Remove lid. Potato skins will be wrinkled and shiny. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. In the rare event that you have leftovers, they are easily revived by reheating in a skillet with a 1/4 cup water until the water evaporates. --

This recipe is for Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, hosting Weekend Herb Blogging #213 for Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once. Laurie will have her round-up online by Monday next week. Do be sure to stop by for the consistently tantalizing array of recipes.


Been There, Done That~
Swedish Stuffed Potato Dumplings
Duchess Potatoes
Rosemary Roasted Blue Potatoes

Other People's Eats ~
Nook and Pantry's Thyme-Roasted Potatoes
Week of Menu's Korean-Style Roasted Potatoes
Daniel Humm's Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Dried Figs and Thyme (The New York Times)


  1. I love potatoes! That dish is awesome!



  2. Love that crinkly skin in the first pic!

  3. I love potatoes and this dish is fab - I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be any leftovers!

  4. I can relate to you on the squash. My CSA share ended in late October and I still have a massive stash of squashes I've been slowly eating up. The older I get the more I feel Christmas comes far too quickly.

  5. I am trying to picture your winter squash obstacle course. I have a number of squashes myself, in my storage area. My reason for going slow on using them is that I want to take some photos before they are gone. I love new potatoes, rigorously with their skin on. I had never thought about serving them at parties, as you suggest. I don't think there would be any leftovers.

  6. I have not tried this method of making potatoes yet (mine the usual lazy way of roasting in oven) - your potato skins looked so gorgeously wrinkled that I have to try this one day.

  7. We found some fingerlings at a local orchard and snapped them up. Then I did something similar to this, but used a lemon infused grapeseed oil to finish them off. I can't remember the herb I used, though.

  8. This is one of your more humorous posts, as eloquent as all others. Wish I could see all those boulders, though I CAN imagine the taste of this origin-al and mysterious recipe!

  9. "Skins shrink wrapped and clinging with herbs", what more would I need to draw me into this recipe:D

  10. I love potatoes done this way. We usually cut up larger Yukon Gold potatoes but I think we really must try your method of using smaller new potatoes.

    If only I had your problem of having too many squashes! We didn't get enough squashes when they were in season and now I can't make squash ginger soup with lime juice. It's a fabulous recipe I found years ago in Gourmet Magazine. The piece de resistance is the crispy fried julienned ginger used as a garnish on top.


    P.S. Here is my take on the Gourmet recipe:

  11. The little potatoes are so cute! I know what you mean about Christmas seeming early. I feel like I am way behind!

  12. your pics, my dear, are magnificent.

  13. Thanks, Rosa!

    Pam - And it's got a nice snap when you bite into it.

    Thank you, Haalo.

    Hi, Kelly. - You're right. When we are kids, it feels like Xmas will *never* get here.

    You know, Simona, some of the squash are still around and in good shape into the new year.

    Wiffy - This is a pretty lazy method, too. OK, you do have to watch them, but they are worth keeping an eye on.

    Hi, Ruhama. - Lemon-infused oil sounds quite lovely, a great idea.

    Thank you, Preeti!

    Sra - Ta. I'm not kidding - boulders is an accurate description. : D

    Val - Thank you!


    Hi, Elizabeth. - Much easier to cut larger spuds down since the tiny tots are hard to find, but their texture is different (delicious, but different).

    Crispy julienned ginger garnish on your soup sounds fabulous! I'll go have a look. Thanks.


    Kalyn - They are cute, and pretty hard to find, too. I've only had them once since this original post.

    Thanks, Bee. Good to see you.