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April, 2012

Chef Jamie Gwen's Ingredient Challenge: Pixie Tangerine and Fingerling Potatoes

By Dennis Linden

Chef Jamie Gwen, radio food show host / food correspondent / sommelier / lifestyle expert / cookbook author / condiment entrepreneur / culinary speaker, demonstrates her passion for American comfort food with a twist.

Chef Jamie Gwen

At first glance, this month’s challenge ingredients do seem like an odd pairing; that is, until the first bite treats the palate to a pleasant surprise of flavors that very much complement each other. Chef Jamie Gwen, radio food show host / food correspondent / sommelier / lifestyle expert / cookbook author / condiment entrepreneur / culinary speaker, demonstrates her passion for American comfort food with a twist. Chef Jamie a long-time associate of Melissa’s, uses two of our most popular fresh produce items that rarely appear on the same plate together to create a quick and easy side dish that evokes an infamous chip commercial tag line: "Betcha can’t eat just one”!

If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing the unique intensity of the Pixie Tangerine flavor, your high bar of tangerine essence is about to soar to a new level. I have watched unsuspecting seasoned produce professionals at industry food shows sample a segment of Pixie with knowledgeable expectations of the taste to follow – only to do a wide-eyed, cartoon-like double take at the outstanding flavor. As a food wordsmith, this writer is usually able to come up with a fitting description for just about any flavor; however, the Pixie must be tried to be appreciated. The variety is truly something very special.

Fingerling Potatoes

Fingerling Potatoes have a creamy texture with a hint of sweetness compared to most other potato varieties. Very small Gold Fingerlings were used in Chef Jamie’s recipe; Russian Banana, French Ruby or Melissa’s Fingerling Medley pack would have made equally scrumptious alternatives. Fingerlings are fully mature, full-flavored tubers that, as their name suggests, are about the size and shape of a finger. They are a favorite of professional chefs because of their ease of cooking as well as their appearance factor when served whole on a plate.

Culinary sidebar
In researching the fingerling for this feature, every source made reference to the fingerling’s long storage characteristics followed by recounting the proper conditions necessary to keep this tasty tuber for up to two months. I have always found storage information about fresh produce a little counter-intuitive. Fresh produce should be bought, prepared and eaten as soon as possible for optimum flavor and nutrients. Unless you are packing for a long sea voyage, shelf life is over-rated -- these wonderful little nuggets should be enjoyed in a timely fashion and then buy some more!

Another wholly unique component to this dish is Chef Jamie’s Pixie Mayonnaise dressing. It’s surprising how a little Pixie juice and dust, combined with toasted garlic and mayo, can produce such a complex-tasting coating for her crispy potatoes. Here’s a trick to achieving fine-grained zest (dust) – freeze the peels and then run them through a food processor to a coarse grain consistency. Reserve a portion for garnish and freeze the rest a second time. Then run the frozen course-grained peel through the processor again until a fine-grained “dust” is achieved.

Useful Hint II
the key to sautéed garlic, especially minced bits, is patience. As in a flame so low that it starts to drive you crazy with impatience. If the speed of this process doesn’t make your eyes roll, then your flame is too hot and you will end up with something resembling blackened Rice Krispies® before you can snap, crackle or pop!

Taking one of America’s favorite foods, crispy potatoes, and slathering them with a mayo coating kissed by Pixie, demonstrates Chef Jamie’s prime directive of creating variations on comfort foods with a delightful twist. In the interest of full disclosure, we proudly admit to a long-standing partnership with Chef Jamie. Melissa’s has been supplying this vivacious culinary dynamo with her fresh produce needs for the array of culinary demonstrations, media shows and charitable events that make up just a part of this multi-talented, celebrity bon vivant’s busy career. The company is also a sponsor of her radio show, which features a Melissa's Produce Pick every week. Chef Jamie is a part of the extended Melissa’s family; we are forever grateful for her culinary creativity and support. Bon appétit, Chef Jamie!

OLIVE OIL FRIED FINGERLING POTATO SALAD with PIXIE “DUST” and TOASTED GARLIC
Serves 4


OLIVE OIL FRIED FINGERLING POTATO SALAD with PIXIE “DUST” and TOASTED GARLIC

Ingredients
2 pounds Melissa’s Fingerling Potatoes
2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic Cloves
¼ cup Mayonnaise
3 teaspoons Melissa’s Ojai Pixie Tangerine, zest
2 Melissa’s Ojai Pixie Tangerine, juice only
¼ cup Parsley, chopped
Enough Olive Oil for frying
Salt and freshly Ground Pepper, to taste

Preparation
Place the potatoes in a large pot with generously salted water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let cool.

Cut each potato in half and using your hands, press each cooked potato half between your palms to “smash” the potato to about a half-inch thickness. The skins on the potato will split, but the potato should stay intact. You can also smash the potatoes gently on a cutting board, then carefully lift them using a knife, pressing the flesh back together where need be.

Pour about a half-inch of olive oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and fry until just golden, being careful not to burn the garlic. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic from the oil and place it in a small mixing bowl. Increase the heat to medium-high and carefully place enough smashed potatoes into the hot oil without crowding and cook on both sides until crisp and well-browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Continue frying, adding more oil as necessary, until all of the potatoes are crisp.

Add the mayonnaise, Pixie Tangerine zest, Pixie Tangerine juice and the chopped parsley to the bowl of toasted garlic. Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper. Toss the crispy potatoes with the mayonnaise mixture and serve immediately.