What makes these potatoes Venetian is simply the frequency with which I have seen them prepared in this manner in the homes of Giardini. The shape of the cut potatoes sometimes varies (thick disks are quite popular) but I much prefer the dice shape. The consistent features are the melted onions and the unctuous syrupy stock sauce. I wouldn’t worry too much about the type of potato, either. With waxy varieties, the dice holds its shape much better and the slightly yellow hue is a little more attractive. But floury spuds disintegrate a tad more, so the sauce has more viscosity, giving a fuller, deeper flavor. I love them both ways.
3 1/4 pounds potatoes
2 large onions
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
extra virgin olive oil
up to 1 1/2 cups hot vegetable stock (recipe below)
flaky sea salt
a handful of flat parsley leaves, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
Peel the potatoes, rinse them in cold water, dice them (literally the size of dice), then rest them on a kitchen towel to dry.
Peel and halve the onions, and slice into thin, crescent-shaped slivers. In a large, heavy bottomed frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add a good glug of olive oil and gently sauté the onions for about 10 minutes, until soft, glossy, and translucent. Put the potatoes into the pan, coat with the oil and onions, and continue to sauté for an additional few minutes.
Now add a couple of ladles of the hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Continue to simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes. If necessary, add another ladleful of the stock to just cover the potatoes. If the stock is bubbling too fiercely, reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
When the stock has reduced to a syrupy consistency and the potatoes are soft to the bite, but not disintegrating, add the parsley and a little more salt, if necessary. Serve immediately, while hot, with a generous twist of black pepper.
Makes about 8 1/2 cups
If I’m being honest, I have not seen a great deal of stock-making in the domestic kitchens of Venice. Sauces are usually loosened and flavored with pasta cooking water. However, I enjoy making this stock and it’s a good way to use up vegetables that are looking a bit tired. Vegetable stock is excellent for light risottos and it makes soups a cinch.
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
2 celery stalks, quartered
2 large carrots, peeled and quartered
1 large leek, washed, trimmed, and quartered
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
Place all the ingredients in a stock pot. Add 3 quarts (12 cups) of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to bubble gently for about an hour and a half, until reduced by a third.
Remove the scum from the surface, strain, and allow the stock to cool. Refrigerate until needed or freeze in small containers. It will keep in the fridge for 3 days or the freezer for 3 months.
Excerpted from Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking by Russell Norman. Copyright 2018 Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.
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