Serves 6 to 8
My mom, Karen, tells me that this recipe was inspired by watching the ladies in her hometown cook at the Pierz Fun House, a social club used for weddings and other public functions. They would make these potatoes by the hundreds: halved russet potatoes, sandwiched with butter and onions and bay leaves, smashed back together, and baked in foil. When you unwrapped your potato, the onion would lie pallid in the middle, and the butter would pool in the foil.
Smartly, my mom pivoted to baking each potato half open-face, so that the onions crisped into dark toupees on top. She also scored the potato flesh deeply before baking, so that the butter knew where it was supposed to go: down the cracks to the bottom skin. After an hour or so in the oven, the skin bakes to a dark brown callus. When I was a kid, I’d capsize my potato boat so that the soft cubes of potato fell out and I could fold the shatteringly crisp bottom around a piece of meat, like a taco.
Yellow or red (or even purple) potatoes, not russets, are best for this recipe.
1½ pounds yellow potatoes (about 5 large), scrubbed and halved
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1 garlic clove, grated
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for garnish
1 small sweet onion
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Hold each potato half in your palm and crosshatch the flesh deeply with a sharp knife, cutting about halfway through the potato, then set cut side up in a 9 × 13-inch baking dish. If the potatoes wobble, shear a thin layer from their bottoms so they sit upright. Season the potatoes with the salt and pepper to taste, rubbing it into the cuts.
Mash the butter with the garlic, paprika, and smoked paprika in a small bowl and divide it in half. Divide half of the compound butter evenly among the potatoes, smashing it into the potatoes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the potatoes are just tender when poked with a knife, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.
Uncover the baking dish and raise the temperature to 450°F. Slice the onion lengthwise into thin arcs, and season with salt. Divide the remaining compound butter among the potatoes and top each with fantailed slices of onion. Roast the potatoes, uncovered, until the edges darken and crisp and the onions toast at their thinnest points, about 25 minutes.
Garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika shot across the surface of the potatoes and serve hot or warm, right from the dish.
Excerpted from COMPANY: The Radically Casual Art of Cooking for Others by Amy Thielen. Copyright © 2023 by Amy Thielen. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved
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