A paste of fried bread, garlic, and almonds binds the potatoes and looks like ground beef. Whether that's good or bad, it lends indisputably scrumptious flavor and lots of hearty texture to this unintentionally vegan potato dish. Adapted from Deborah Madison's The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
- 1 t olive oil (for greasing)
- 3 T olive oil, divided
- 2 large peeled garlic cloves
- 2 lb. small yellow potatoes, scrubbed and halved
- Sea or kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 2 pinches (1/2 to 1 t) saffron threads
- ½ C sliced, slivered, or coarsely chopped almonds, without brown skins
- 1½ C torn 1 inch pieces of hearty white bread, with crust (1 large slice)
- 1 t smoked paprika (or regular, see notes)
- 1⅔ C boiling water
- 1 T finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- Apply a thin coat of olive oil to a 9" glass pie plate (or similar sized baking dish). Spread the potatoes evenly in the dish. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and saffron, breaking up the longer saffron threads as you do so.
- Preheat oven to 375 (F).
- In a small skillet (I used nonstick), heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium until very hot. Add garlic cloves and almonds, and fry for a few minutes (depending on the oil temperature) until golden. Carefully remove to the bowl of a food processor. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the same skillet until very hot, then add bread pieces. Fry, as they sizzle, until they turn golden and begin to crisp. Remove promptly to the food processor. Add paprika, salt, pepper, and a splash of the boiling water to food processor and let cool for a couple minutes with the lid off. Grind until a coarse paste forms, adding more water if very dry. Distribute the bread mixture evenly over the potatoes.
- Pour remaining boiling water (it's okay if it's slightly cooled) slowly over the potatoes, so the bread mixture isn't disturbed too much. Place on a rimmed baking tray, cover tightly with foil, and bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven and gently stir, now incorporating the bread mixture throughout the dish. Cover again with the foil (loosely is fine) and return to the oven for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. If desired, preheat the broiler and move an oven rack near it, uncover the dish, and broil for a few minutes to further brown and crisp the top.
- Let stand a few minutes (or more) before serving. The bread will continue to absorb any excess water, forming a gravy-like sauce surrounding the potatoes. For color, top with parsley before serving.
- To substitute larger potatoes, cut them into 1 to 2 inch uniform pieces.
- Yes, saffron is spendy. I'd argue that it's worth it, but if you want to leave it out, make sure you're using smoked paprika, not the "regular" variety.
- If you don't have a tea kettle or small saucepan, boil water in the microwave in a liquid measuring cup.
- The dish does very well when prepared in advance! Fully cook or cook for the first 45 minutes. Bring the refrigerated dish to room temperature, reheating in a 300 degree oven if previously fully cooked, or finishing as prescribed in the recipe if baked for only the first 45 minutes.