Not too long ago I found myself standing in the middle of a field stretching further than my eyes could see, surrounded by new friends, the sounds of screaming machinery, and the pungent smell of fresh earth.
And then there were the potatoes. Pounds and piles and entire warehouses full of potatoes of all shapes and sizes.
This is Idaho potato country. And this is where I was lucky enough to find myself several weeks ago, at the epicenter of the largest potato growing, harvesting, shipping and processing industry in these United States.
Even if you’re not a fan of potatoes, you would have to be impressed by the sheer volume of operations such as these… all of the labor that goes into that one sack of potatoes that you snatch off the shelf in the grocery store while texting your mom, juggling a package of chicken breasts, and dashing off to the sour cream aisle.
It’s incredibly impressive and more than a little humbling.
It’s also pretty much heaven for a potato lover such as myself.
The air literally smells like potatoes.
Everyone you meet knows something interesting and new about potatoes.
The license plates even have pictures of butter-topped baked potatoes on them. For. Real.
I’m honestly not really sure how it would work out for a potato hater living in Idaho. I guess you could try walking around in your ‘Quinoa is Cool’ tee shirt or your ‘Wheat Berries are Wicked Awesome’ hoodie… I just don’t know that you’d get much traction.
So I trudged around a few potato fields. I met some fascinating, hard-working people. I got some dirt underneath my fingernails. And I came home inspired to create more than a few new potato dishes that I could serve to my friends and family.
Today we’re working with mini potatoes grown in Idaho. Specifically, a Klondike brand gourmet medley of baby golden, red and purple potatoes that you can find in the produce section of your local grocery store. They’re super cute, super tasty, super inspiring, and super fun to cook and eat.
I like to use baby potatoes any time I make a breakfast hash; baby potatoes are easy to chop up and they’re easy to sauté to the golden, tender, crispy consistency that makes hash so excellent.
And then you have to top your hash with some mushrooms and salty Cotija cheese, and wrap it all up in a tortilla – duh!
Why? Because that’s how we roll in the southwest!
I like to dig into my Potato Mushroom Hash Tacos just like I dug into the soft, potato-riddled dirt in Idaho, the results being just as delicious, just as inspiring, and just as soul-warmingly rewarding.
I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Idaho Potato Commission for including me in their trip to Idaho to be a part of the 2012 potato harvest, and sincere congratulations as they celebrate their 75th anniversary!
Potato Mushroom Hash Tacos
1- 1 1/2 bag of Klondike Gourmet Medley Potatoes
3 tbsp. + 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 c. yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin, ground
1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 tsp. sea salt, finely ground
8 oz. brown baby bella crimini mushrooms (Please note that after lightly brushing my mushrooms to clean, I opt to remove and discard their stems before slicing – it’s perfectly fine to leave their stems intact if you prefer.)
1/2 c. queso Cotija, crumbled (feta or any other salty, non-melting cheese makes a perfect substitute here)
4 medium-sized flour tortillas
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy-bottomed skilled over a medium flame.
Meanwhile, to prepare the potatoes, carefully dice them, leaving their skins intact. As with most all types of baby potatoes, the sizes of pieces included in this variety will vary greatly, so I found that the best way to dice them is just to chop them in half vertically, and then slice them horizontally down their length. Once each potato has been roughly chopped in this manner, you can pile the potato pieces together and more efficiently dice them into smaller pieces.
Once the oil and pan are hot, add the potato pieces and let them sit for a minute as they land in the pot to sear. After a minute or so, lightly toss, then cover and cook for 15 minutes, tossing 2-3 times as they cook. After 15 minutes add the onion, garlic, cumin, black pepper, salt and 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Toss well and cook for 8-10 minutes more. Once the potato pieces are fork tender and the mixture is golden brown, remove to a large bowl and set aside.
Add the 2 remaining teaspoons of olive oil to the same pan and again heat over a medium flame. Add the mushrooms and toss, cooking until the slices are tender and golden. Remove to the same bowl as the potato mixture. Add the crumbled cheese and toss thoroughly. Assemble your tacos by dividing the hash evenly among four warmed tortillas; serve immediately with the tomato-based salsa of your choosing.
YIELD: 4 large tacos