Thursday, September 9, 2010

City of Ember Roasted Potatoes

Imagine this: There's a city underground, deep enough to be cut off from the rest of the world entirely.  It was built years ago by people known only as The Builders, who supplied the city - Ember - with everything it could possibly need: canned food, clothing, a generator and power grid for electricity, a plumbing and sewer system, a greenhouse for growing fruits and vegetables - everything the city's people could need for 200 years.

But that was 241 years ago, and now, decades after the day when residents were supposed to return to the surface, the plans for Ember have been lost.  Supplies are running low, and the generator is slowly dying.  Ember is in fear of the day when the lights don't come back on after a blackout, when the shelves are bare, and when the plants stop growing.

Imagine, too, that you have found the Builders' plans, that you know that it's time to get the residents to the surface world, and how to do it, ending the years of darkness and uncertainty.  But nobody will listen to you.  After all, you're only 12 years old.

That's what happened to Lina Mayfleet in The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau.  She, along with her friend Doon and 2-year-old sister Poppy, has to decide whether to follow the Builders' instructions and escape from the city, or give up and let Ember die?  Tell me... what would you do?

I seriously love this book.  I saw the movie randomly on tv one day and loved it, and then found out that there was a book version (which came first, naturally), and it's even better than the movie (of course)!  Better than that, even?  There are four books in this series, and my library has all of them!  I made the ultimate sacrifice and re-read City of Ember for you, my dear friends, and I even have Book 2 (The People of Spark) on my coffee table for later.  (I left books 3 and 4 at the library this time - no need to be greedy.)

Anyhow.  It's not like I'm obsessed with this book, but it is one of the few that I've brought to people, put in their hands and said, "Read this.  I'm not kidding."  There's just something about it that makes me highly recommend it to just about everybody.

So, back to Ember.  Food, naturally, was pretty scarce in the city, since they only had what they little remained on the storeroom shelves and what they could grow in the greenhouse, which was, with plumbing and lights being unreliable, not all that much.  But there was one thing they could always count on, and that was potatoes.  Lina had potatoes for almost every meal, and while I'm sure she was probably sick to death of mashed potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner... that really doesn't sound all that bad to me.

I love potatoes.  I'm like Bubba from Forrest Gump - I'll take them any way I can get them.  Boiled, baked, mashed, fried, potato soup, potato stew, potato dumplings, potato bread... but today I'm sharing with you one of my all-time favorite potato recipes.  It's easy as heck, and tastes really good, too.

City of Ember Roasted Potatoes
Red potatoes, about 2 or 3 per person*
Olive Oil - about 1 tbsp. per person (use as much as you need to lightly, evenly coat the potatoes)

*NOTE about the potatoes:  There are many varieties of potatoes, and they're good for many different things.  Russetts are good baking potatoes, and yellow potatoes (like Yukon Gold) are awesome for mashies, but for this, I like good ol' red potatoes.  For one thing, they're solid enough that you don't have to worry about them getting mushy, and for another, you don't have to peel them!  Plus, they're yummy.  But you can substitute other potatoes if you want.

**NOTE about the spices:  You can use just about anything here.  I assume Ember's people would have just used salt and pepper, and this recipe are great with just that.  You can also do some with rosemary and dill, or with Italian seasoning, or with garlic powder and dried onions (or real garlic and onions!), or go really funky and use a little bit of dried salad dressing mix, like one of those Hidden Valley Ranch pouches (just make sure that you don't use a whole packet for just a few potatoes, because that may be overwhelming). They also make spice blends just for this, in the pre-mixed-spice-pouch section of the store.  Really, anything's good.  This time, I used dried diced onions and garlic powder, which is why they look "chunky."  I used a bit much... but it was so good!

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Wash and dry the potatoes, and cut them into biteable chunks.  I generally cut my red potatoes into 6 to 8 pieces each, but whatever size you like is fine.
2. Put the potato pieces into a bowl and add the olive oil; mix well, until evenly coated.  (This also works with a large ziploc - add the ingredients and shake to coat).  Add the spices of your choice and mix again, until the spices are evenly distrubuted.
3. Pour the potatoes onto a cookie sheet in an even layer.  Pop the whole thing into the oven, and cook until the potatoes are cooked through, stirring/flipping the potatoes about 30 minutes in.  When they're done, they'll have a light crust on the outside, and the inside will be warm and soft.  This usually takes me about an hour and 15 minutes, but I check at 45 minutes and again at 1 hour, just to make sure they're not getting burned.

I'd like to give attribution for this recipe, but I remember my Mom making this when I was little, so it may just be one of those things that Moms know how to make and pass it along.  (My Uncle Hawk also makes a mean roasted potato, to be fair - it's not just Moms.)

One of the things I like about this recipe is that I also cook my chicken at 350, and that takes usually 35-45 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts), so if I time it correctly, my dinner comes out of the oven at the same time!  I'm a big fan of that.  (Take it out, let it cool for a few minutes while I microwave some veggies, and eat!)  Alternately, you can roast the potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.  They taste about the same, so it all depends on what temperature you're cooking other things at, or personal preference.

As a side note for those who didn't see my side note - yes, that is a different location, and totally different plates!  Also, a new camera, so it won't take me 5 minutes to get a good shot.  Hooray!

1 comment:

  1. Just stumbled upon your blog whilst pinning things for my City of Ember board. I posted beet soup for my recipe! Will definitely be eagerly awaiting your posts.