Potato is a relative newcomer in Russian cuisine. It has started to occupy a regular spot on the dining table from the early 19th century, while prior to that turnips have been used in the same capacity, served boiled, mashed with butter or sour cream, fried, baked and used as a side to various dishes.
Start of potato growing in Russia is usually attributed to Peter the Great. Unconfirmed historical myth mentions Peter the Great tasting potatoes for the first time while in Holland during one of this European travels. Impressed by the value of the new food item, he sends a sack of potatoes back to St. Petersburg, addressed to Count Sheremetev. However, proof of such royal parcel existence is lacking, but nevertheless, even if it was true, this would have been only one of the potato pathways into Russia.
Initially, potatoes were considered outlandish exotic vegetable. Sprinkled with sugar they were served as a rare dainty dish at royal court balls and nobility banquets. Starting from 1764-1776 first potato patches have been cultivated in St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Riga and few other places.
Gradually, Russian people have learned more about the benefits and usages of potato. 200 years old copy of the popular magazine “Writings and translations to the benefit and amusement of the public” in the large article devoted to “earth apples” (nickname of potatoes) talks about them as pleasant and healthy foods which can be baked, mashed, used for making bread, dumplings, and pirogues. Renowned poet Alexander Pushkin, one of the foremost classic poets of Russia, considered baked potatoes his favorite dish and had it frequently served to his guests.
Potato production in Russia has been steadily growing from year to year while the use of potatoes also became more diverse. At first, potatoes were used only as food for people but later started being fed to livestock. With the growth of starch, syrup and distillery industries it has become primary raw material for processing into starch, molasses, and alcohol.
Today it is impossible to imagine Russian dinner table without potatoes. Very much a common-place, many people name potato-based dishes their favorites. So regardless of what kind of potatoes are used and how they are cooked (baked, mashed, fried etc), it is already a classic national dish.
When the potato is thought of as a component of a meal, it is inevitably associated with meat and vegetables and is served either roasted or boiled. In fact, the potato is so versatile in its ability to combine with other flavorings and be cooked in so many different ways that it is the perfect base for a whole variety of delicious side dishes. These boiled, then fried Yukon Gold potatoes get a flavor boost from garlic, butter, and fresh herbs, and make an excellent appetizer or a side dish.
Buttery Potatoes with Garlic & Fresh Herbs
- 1 1/2 lb. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, each about 2 inches in diameter, unpeeled
- sea salt, to taste
- 3 Tbsp. butter, melted
- 2Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
Put the potatoes in a large pot and add water to cover by 3 inches. Season the water with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain well in a colander.
In a large, heavy fry pan, with olive oil arrange the potato in a single layer. Cook over medium-high heat, turning several times until they crisp and brown, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the potato in large bowl. Mix with garlic, paprika, and fresh herbs. Toss well. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a warmed serving dish, drizzle with more butter and serve immediately.
Be sure to dry the potatoes well before frying to help prevent spattering.