This is a hardly a recipe; it’s more of a warning: If you do not make these potatoes, your life will have a teeny-tiny potato void in it, halfway between your heart and your stomach. It might not seem like much, being so teeny-tiny and all, but I assure you, it will sting.
I didn’t even know I had this void before last night; it was, I’ll admit, easily filled with all the other potatoes that I had braised for countless dinners before. Those potatoes, with their crispy, browned skins and mashed-potato-y white interiors, are enough to please. It’s easy not to go looking for more when you already have such a good thing.
Thankfully, more found me yesterday afternoon, in one of my favorite places (second only to my screened-in third-floor porch on the first warm day, when winter seems behind me), my butcher’s. Just thinking about my butcher’s, which has been written up twice by the New York Times, makes me feel happy, warm, and hungry. The two butchers, Emil and Joe, may seem stand-offish at first, but ask them about their meat, or tell them the recipe that you’re planning, and let them lead the way for you, and they soften right up. Become a loyal customer, and you get smiles and jokes and that happy, warm feeling I’m talking about. (You also get a bit of a panicky, distressed feeling because they are pretty old and may be retiring and you don’t know what you would do without them.) They always know the best cut to use, and their meat is the best. They’ve got eggs from their farm and hand-picked grocery items. And yesterday, they had teeny-tiny baby potatoes with yellow flesh that proved beyond creamy, with soft, thin skins.
We bought almost all of them—leaving only about half a pound, because I felt guilty and another customer was leaning menacingly over my shoulder as I pillaged the goods. I had already decided to braise them on the stove-top, in a little olive oil and tarragon, before we left the shop. I didn’t yet know how good they’d be.
The braising method, it turned out, was fantastic. I’m sure it’s the best method to cook these young, creamy potatoes; they brown a little but are left mostly unadulterated. I’ll never be certain if it’s the best method, however, because I’m sure I’ll never try them another way. They were perfect. The tarragon braises down and imparts a nutty—not anise-y as it does raw—flavor. The result is not quite crispy but brown on the outside, a little nutty, and oh so, ohso solidly creamy and buttery and golden on the inside. We ate them with our fingers, alongside seared scallops and arugula, and it was one of the best meals we had ever had. Just thinking about it, I feel happy, and warm, and hungry.
Braised Potatoes with Tarragon
serves 2 to be honest, 4 if there’s a lot of will-power involved
If you can find teeny-tiny baby potatoes, which look a lot like fingerlings, use those.
- 2 pounds of the teeny-tiniest potatoes you can get your hands on
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- about 10-15 leaves of tarragon, chopped or torn up
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
In a (preferably nonstick) pan, warm your olive oil over medium heat. Scatter your potatoes, the pan should be big enough that you don’t need to overcrowd, with the potatoes hardly overlapping (a little is ok). Throw your tarragon, salt and pepper in. Add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the potatoes. Cover the pan and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, checking at about 15 minutes in case they’ve cooked quickly. Take the lid off the pan and cook until the water evaporates, stirring very gently with a spoon or silicone spatula so that the potatoes brown on all sides. Serve hot, with a drizzle of olive oil.