Old-Fashioned Savory Potatoes

Sometimes old-time recipes seem decidedly modern . A hundred-year-old recipe for Savory Potatoes is one of those times. This recipe reminded me of roasted potatoes that I sometimes get in restaurants. The Savory Potatoes were coated with a delightful, moist, onion and sage mixture which created an aromatic, savory taste sensation.

I’m not sure whether it’s a plus or a negative, but my kitchen smelled like Thanksgiving when I made this recipe. The roasting potatoes smelled very similar to a roasting turkey stuffed with a traditional sage and onion dressing – though (thankfully) the actual dish did not remind me in the least of Thanksgiving.

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1917)

I assume that the 1550 calories listed in the recipe refers to the total number of calories for this dish. There’s no way that a single serving could have that many calories.

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks. (When I made this recipe I halved it.)

Savory Potatoes

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/2 pounds small or medium potatoes (if small, halve the potatoes; if medium, cut into bite-sized pieces)

1 onion, chopped

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons powdered sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

dash pepper

Preheat oven to 400° F. Put the water, olive oil, sage, salt and paper in a mixing bow; stir to combine. Add the chopped onions, and stir. Then add the potatoes and gently toss until coated. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer in a glass baking dish.  Put into oven. After 25 minutes, gently stir the potatoes, then return to over. Continue baking until the potatoes are tender (approximately an additional 20-30 minutes).

When Potatoes Are Expensive, Substitute Rice

potatoes

In 1917, food prices were rising rapidly in the U.S. because of World War I and the demand for food in Europe. Magazines were filled with articles about how to cope with the high food prices. One article encouraged readers to substitute rice for potatoes. Here’s a few excerpts:

Who Cares for Potatoes?

When there are cheaper foods that can take the place of Irish potatoes, why do we worry over their increasing cost? Besides, mankind has not always had potatoes to eat. The potato became widely popular only about one hundred years ago. It was the middle of the sixteenth century that the Spaniards found the potato in Peru and took it back to the Continent where it was cultivated as a curiosity.

In our own country we know the potato was cultivated in the temperate sections, for we have record of Sir Walter Raleigh’s taking it in 1585 from North Carolina to Ireland, to be cultivated on his estate near Cork. Its cultivation first became general in Ireland (whence its name) and not until a little more than a century ago did it come into widespread popular usage.

Certainly  we are not wholly dependent upon the potato for a well-balanced dietary since our ancestors thrived without it. To be sure, the potato has justly soared its popularity because of its cheapness, its food-value, its palatability, the convenience with which it can be shipped and stored, and the ease with which it can be prepared in a surprisingly large variety of attractive ways.

Source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)
Source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)

It is true that men and women are largely creatures of habit, but the time has come when the women, as controllers of at  least seventy-five percent of the incomes of the men of the nation, must look to our habits to see whether they are expensive and whether they need to be altered.

Starch is not the only necessary constituent of a substitute for potatoes. The potato is rich in vitamins. This property, however, is possessed by most fruits and vegetables, and by milk.

Rice would more than fit the bill, as it contains nearly three times as much energy-building material as the potato. If we substitute it for potatoes, me must have at the same meal vegetables or fruits that will supply the needed potassium and bulk. Such vegetables and fruits are: Cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumbers, beets, lettuce, celery, string beans, parsnips, rhubarb, rutabagas, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, bananas, apricots, lemons, oranges, peaches pineapple, strawberries.

In purchasing rice we have a chance to economize by buying the broken kernels, which sell for several cents a pound cheaper than the whole grain, and have exactly the same food value.

Not that we wish to taboo potatoes–far be it from that–but since their price is relatively high we can save money by using potato-less menus.

Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)

Scotch Potatoes (Scalloped Potatoes and Onions) Recipe

Scotch Potatoes

Brrr, it’s cold outside and I’m ready for some comfort foods. When I saw a recipe for Scotch Potatoes in the January, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal, I just had to try it.

Scotch Potatoes are very similar to Scalloped Potatoes, but they contain a lot more onions. The recipe calls for a 1:1 ratio of potatoes and onions (2 cups potatoes and 2 cups onions).

This recipe was a winner, and I may never make regular scalloped potatoes again. Scotch Potatoes wonderfully pairs the creamy potatoes with the sweet, bright, complex flavor and texture of the onions to create a lovely taste sensation.

The recipe I typically use for Scalloped Potatoes just has me put the raw potato slices into the casserole dish and then pour white sauce over it. When I bake that casserole I often struggle to get the potatoes tender before the top gets overly brown. One of my favorite things about the Scotch Potatoes recipe is that I had no issues with a burned top and under-cooked potatoes.

This recipe called for boiling the potatoes and onions for a few minutes before putting them into the baking dish. This worked perfectly—and I now wonder why I never thought of doing this before.

Scotch Potatoes (Scalloped Potatoes and Onions)

  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Difficulty: moderate
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4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced (approx. 2 cups)

4 medium onions, sliced (approx. 2 cups)

water

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400° F. Put the sliced potatoes and onions into a saucepan, and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer until the potatoes are just barely tender (about 12 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.

In the meantime, make a white sauce by melting the butter in another saucepan. Stir in the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. While stirring constantly, slowly add the milk. Continue stirring until the mixture is hot and begins to thicken.

Place the cooked potatoes and onions in a baking dish. Pour the white sauce over them, and put into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and the top begins to brown. Remove from oven and serve.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)

I didn’t make my potato and onion slices as thick as the slices called for in the original recipe. Mine were about 1/4 inch thick, and they worked beautifully in the updated recipe.

Old-fashioned Potato Cakes

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, March 13, 1912:  Nothing of much account did I do today.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’m going to give you another old recipe. This one is for Potato Cakes, and it’s a great way to use left-over mashed potatoes.

When I was a child we frequently ate Potato Cakes. My memory is that they were a very traditional Pennsylvania food—and I can picture Grandma eating them when she was a teen.

I hadn’t made Potato Cakes in years until I decided to make them for this post. I don’t have a written recipe—but this is how I made them.

Old-Fashioned Potato Cakes

left-over mashed potatoes

shortening or lard

After the meal where the mashed potatoes were served, take the left-over potatoes, shape into flat patties and press firmly. Put on a plate, cover and refrigerate. Will keep for several days.

When ready to make the Potato Cakes, melt enough shortening in a heavy frying pan to cover the pan to a depth of about 1/8 inch. Slip the patties into the hot shortening. Fry until golden brown; flip and fry on the other side. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

The amounts are very flexible. When I made the mashed potatoes, I made more than I typically would—and then I just used all of the left-over potatoes to make the potato cakes.

The Potato Cakes turned out great. My husband and I enjoyed eating them, and I’m planning to make them again in the near future.

Old-fashioned Fried Potatoes

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, January 16, 1912:  There is nothing much to write about for today. Things go on as usual.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma wrote little a hundred years ago today, I’m going to give you the recipe for an old winter staple–fried potatoes. Potatoes and other locally-grown vegetables that could be stored for many months were an important part of the winter diet.

Old-fashioned Fried Potatoes

1/4 cup lard

approximately 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced

salt

Melt lard in large heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) using medium heat.  When the lard  is hot add the sliced potatoes.  Generously sprinkle with salt. Turn potatoes with a spatula and again sprinkle with salt. Continue cooking (and occasionally turning) until potatoes are tender, with a crisped, lightly browned coating.

Old-fashioned fried potatoes cooked in a cast iron skillet are one of my favorite foods. They brown beautifully and are very crisp. And, the lard really enhances the subtle flavor of the potatoes.