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Celebrating the versatile spud

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Willmar,Minnesota 56201
West Central Tribune
Celebrating the versatile spud
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

I've always loved potatoes, to eat and to prepare.

My mom would cook a pot filled with chunks of starchy, dry russet potatoes immersed in boiling salted water. After she drained them, she'd add butter and whole milk and then beat them to death with her hand-held electric mixer, aiming to cream every little lump of potato. They'd always come to the table fluffy and light and very smooth. I still have a passion for mashed potatoes.


When we owned our first home, we had a dear neighbor who had lots of friends. One of his friends was a potato farmer in the Red River Valley. At this time of year, our neighbor would arrive at our door with a big burlap sack over his shoulder, looking like Santa with a bag full of gifts. This bag, though, was indeed a gift, full of freshly dug potatoes, with rich, dark soil still stuck to their skin. Their moist, earthy fragrance would filter through the rough burlap, tempting me to start cooking immediately. While valued partly because they store so well, potatoes always taste better when newly dug from the earth.

Those potatoes would get scalloped, mashed, baked, fried, roasted, grilled, and yes, even nuked in the microwave oven. And that's what makes potatoes so lovable - their versatility allows them to put up with all kinds of preparation styles and still taste delicious.

They are high in Vitamin C and potassium and are a good source of fiber. And, eaten just as they are, they contain not one bit of fat.

With lower starch content than russet potatoes, red-skinned potatoes hold their shape after cooking. They're the perfect choice for Paprika Potatoes in a Pan.

If baked or mashed potatoes have lost their appeal, Paprika Potatoes in a Pan will restore your excitement for this humble tuber. Bacon is fried in a large skillet, providing the fat for sautéing onion, green pepper and garlic. A generous tablespoon of sweet paprika is cooked in the fat with the vegetables, bringing out its aroma and delicate flavor. Once the potatoes are added along with a little water, it's just a short simmer time before the dish is ready to go to the table.

Potatoes may be the main ingredient in this recipe, but paprika adds significant taste. If you have the idea that paprika is only for decorating deviled eggs and really has no flavor, it could very well be that you've never experienced fresh paprika. Although paprika is produced in South America, California and Spain, Hungarians are considered masters of the spice, producing six varieties. Ranging in color from bright red, the sweetest, to brown, the hottest, it should be stored in a dark, dry place. I keep paprika in a jar in the refrigerator. Don't let it linger too long on the shelf, though, because its pungent fragrance and delicate flavor will fade.

Paprika Potatoes in a Pan are a nice complement to barbecued meat. They are a perfect accompaniment to juicy slices of kielbasa. And they're quite delicious enjoyed with your favorite omelet.

Typical potatoes - very versatile.

Paprika Potatoes in a Pan

4 slices bacon, slivered

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 of a large green pepper, diced

2 chubby cloves garlic, minced

1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika

5 to 6 unpeeled medium red potatoes (2 pounds), diced into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream for topping potatoes

In a 12-inch skillet, fry slivers of bacon until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fried bacon to double layer of paper towels. Add onion and green pepper to hot bacon grease remaining in pan. Saute for a few minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add garlic and sauté for 1 more minute. Sprinkle paprika into pan and stir to combine with vegetables. Add potatoes to the pan. Gently toss the mixture until all the potato cubes are coated with paprika. Pour 1 cup of water into the pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover the pan, allowing the potato mixture to simmer until potatoes are fork tender. It will take 15 to 20 minutes. Occasionally stir the potatoes as they simmer to prevent them from sticking to the pan as the water cooks away. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, sprinkle bacon over the potatoes and pass the sour cream. Makes 6 servings.

Tips from the cook

--Try adding caraway seeds at the same time you add the minced garlic. It adds a new dimension of flavor.

--Potato dishes typically don't freeze well, in part, because of their high starch content. Freezing changes the texture of potatoes and causes them to be watery when thawed. So make Paprika Potatoes in a Pan and eat them.