Once upon a time, long long ago, I was a yoga instructor. In the fall of 2001, I got laid off from a job that I hated in Seattle. I decided to go to San Francisco for an Ashtanga yoga teacher training. I worked my ass off, got good at what I did, then landed back in Seattle and found work.
My very first job was teaching in a gym that had a studio which housed mostly aerobics classes. Consequently, it was freezing, glaringly lit, and kind of stinky. My first class there had two students. One I never saw again and the other came to almost every single class I taught thereafter. He was an enormous African American man named Vester who had been a pro football player. He set his mat down in the very same spot every class and even if he wasn’t there, which was extremely rare and only when he was on vacation, no one took his spot. One day, Randy and I were walking downtown when I spied Vester on the sidewalk. He had on leather chaps, leather jacket, bandana, combat boots, and black eye-hiding glasses. The guy was about 6’8″ and probably 300 pounds. I know Randy thought I had taken leave of my senses when I ran over to him and gave him a big hug. But that was the thing about Vester. He looked mean but was actually incredibly sweet and sensitive. He was an intergral part of my class.
As much as I hated that space, I loved those students. I had Lisa who was a stage manager for the Seattle Rep Theatre and whose body was so flexible that I would often have her demonstrate things rather than me. I had Stephanie who, with her fabulous friendly energy, changed my class from people sort of eying each other nervously to actively engaging with one another. I had Lindsey who had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and who wore her bald head with grace and pride. And I had Brooke, a Pilates instructor for the University of Washington dance department who brought her sweet boyfriend David to class. At first I knew he didn’t want to be there but over time, I think he grew to like me and my style.
After two years of teaching (there and elsewhere), making friends, building my class from two to forty students, Randy and I moved to London. I lost touch with almost everyone. I have run into Stephanie who is now teaching yoga classes all over town. I have not heard about Vester, Lisa, or Lindsey. Through the power of blogs and the internet, I got reunited with Brooke. She reads my blog. She and David (now married) opened a Pilates studio not far from where I used to teach them yoga. She is a devoted foodie and francophile.
Those good folks recently had a party for their students and the ever-thoughtful Brooke asked me to cater it. Brooke is allergic to eggs and cow milk, so I wanted to make things that she could eat. Sometimes I just get an idea and my head and have no idea where the inspiration comes from. I decided I wanted to make potatoes with a Romesco dipping sauce. In my head I saw a bowl full of potatoes and a bowl full of sauce and a cute tin of bamboo toothpicks to unite the two. Then I realized that it would not be easy to eat. No Pilates studio needs Romesco sauce on their floor. I changed my approach to hollowing out the potatoes and putting the Romesco sauce directly inside.
How to prepare the potatoes… Boiling, in my opinion is not kind to potatoes. It is fine if you are making a salad with them where they will be cut up or mashed. But if you want them whole, the potatoes get kind of wrinkly and the skin separates from the flesh. They also taste kind of water-logged. While the flavor is better if you roast them, the same skin separation thing happens. I remembered seeing a recipe where you roast the potatoes at a relatively low temperature on a baking sheet filled with coarse salt. I was so excited about this approach, anticipating crispy exterior and creamy interior, that I bought a couple of extra boxes of salt for the future.
Ultimately, the potatoes didn’t end up as fantabulous as I had hoped, but they were certainly good. The skin was still more shrively than I would have liked. Still, I would try this method again but only if it is not 94ºF outside. Maybe on a normal day when I don’t mind the oven being on for a significant amount of time.
Moving on. This Romesco sauce is ah-may-zing. It’s not just this recipe. Just about any Romesco that includes fried bread, almonds, roasted red pepper, tomatoes, and a significant amount of sherry vinegar is something I want to eat. I remember making this version when I was a much less experienced cook. It was the suggested accompaniment to a chickpea stew and at the time, I thought it was an awful lot of fuss for a sauce. Then I tasted it. These many years later (and it has been a lot of years), my brain told me Romesco sauce and it told me to find this recipe.
One last note. Be sure to save the trimmings of the potatoes. Just put them in a container and refrigerate them for a day or two. You can use them for a Spanish style tortilla you can top it with some of the leftover Romesco sauce. Recipe coming tomorrow.
One Year Ago: Honeyed Goat Cheese Tart with Pistachio Crust
Two Years Ago: Green Goddess Salad with Romaine, Cucumbers, and Avocado
Romesco Filled Potatoes
Dana Treat Original (mostly)
Makes about 30
This is how I cooked my potatoes but feel free to use any method you like. Just make sure they keep their shape.
2½ pounds small red potatoes
Approximately 3 lbs. kosher salt
For the Romesco: (Inspired by Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
1 large slice country bread, toasted
½ cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 Roma tomatoes
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 roasted red bell pepper (jarred is fine)
¼ cup sherry vinegar
For the potatoes:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Pour a thick layer of salt onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Place the potatoes in rows, making sure they don’t touch. If necessary, pour salt in between each potato. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until tender when pricked with a paring knife. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then brush off the excess salt from the potatoes.
For the Romesco:
Put everything except the vinegar and oil into a food processor. Sprinkle with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until smooth. Add the vinegar and process again. Add just enough oil to keep loosen up the mixture but not so much that it becomes runny, about ¼ cup. Taste and adjust to make sure the sauce has plenty of piquancy and enough salt. (You will have a lot of sauce which is not a bad thing. It keeps for up to a week, covered, in the refrigerator.)
Cut a very thin slice off what you want to be the bottom of each potato. (This will help the potatoes stand upright.) Cut a larger slice off what you want to be the top. Using a small melon baller or a paring knife, scoop out some of the potato innards. Leave a shell of the potato and don’t take too much of the inside out – you will want to still taste the potato. Using a small spoon, carefully fill the potatoes with the Romesco sauce and top with a parsley leaf, if desired.