The potato is far and away the most consumed vegetable in the United States, so it surprised me when, a few years ago, Emily pointed out to me that it was rare that we ever ate potatoes. Every now and then we would make home fries with bean burgers, and I might make a potato soup or gumbo in the fall, but I could probably count on a hand the number of times I bought the ubiquitous five pound bag of russets from the store every year.
As it turns out, the reason we ate so few potatoes is that I don’t make very many side dishes. One of the greatest difficulties of eating a pescatarian diet is figuring out ways to incorporate favorite side dishes into meals. Some side dishes naturally work with any diet – it’s not difficult to add a side of steamed green beans to any meal. It’s a lot more difficult to come up with a way to eat something that’s often served as an accompaniment to meat – for instance, potatoes.
And all things considered, it’s probably good that Emily and I eat fewer potatoes than the average American, as they aren’t exactly the most nutritious vegetable in the world. That being said, they’re delicious, and I was determined to figure out a way to eat them more frequently.
As is often the case with our meals, the key to eating more potatoes involved figuring out how to make them as a main meal. After looking through a variety of cookbooks for ideas, I finally decided I wanted to make a one-dish skillet hash in which soft on the inside, crispy on the outside potatoes were topped with vegetables and a sauce to make a complete meal, trying a few different cooking methods to get the potatoes just right. After a little trial and error, I finally hit upon a fool-proof method in which you both fry and steam the potatoes, getting a nice crust on them while also ensuring that they cook through completely. You do need a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and a lid that can cover it to make the process work (and if you don’t have these in your kitchen, we strongly encourage you to invest in them).
The potatoes themselves are incredibly versatile, so feel free to experiment with flavor combinations. I really enjoyed topping them with roasted bell pepper, scallions, and salsa (a combination to which Emily often adds a fried egg). You can also serve them as a side or use them in another dish.
easy skillet potatoes
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
Add oil, diced potatoes, and salt to a cold 9-inch cast-iron skillet and toss lightly. Heat over medium-high heat. Once the potatoes begin to sizzle, turn heat down to medium. Cook for 8 minutes, occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan but stirring as little as possible.
Stir potatoes gently, flipping the potatoes at the bottom of the skillet. Cover and continue cooking for 12 minutes.
Remove the lid from the skillet and check the potatoes for doneness – a fork should pierce the potatoes easily. If they still seem a little firm, cover and cook for another five minutes.
Increase heat to medium high and fry uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring the potatoes gently every now and then. Remove from heat and serve with desired toppings.