This spud’s for Petey

Jun. 24, 2014 @ 08:57 AM

When I told Petey that I thought I’d write this piece about my new preparation for potatoes, he said they definitely deserve their own column. 

So, here it is.

I’ve mentioned my neighborhood grocery store, Carlie C’s (3729 Wake Forest Highway, Durham) many times. I love their low prices and variety of Southern specialties.

But it’s the people that make shopping there a pleasure.  Everybody from Tommy the manager, and the butchers and produce people, to the cashiers/baggers are kind, helpful and cheerful. But in the spirit of total honesty, I must say that my very favorite person at Carlie C’s is Mizz Katz, the manager of the prepared food section.

Here’s an example of Mizz Katz’s thoughtfulness: I love her slow-cooked Italian beans. But they only have them a few times a week, and lately I’ve been missing them, usually by just one frustrating day. 

Yesterday Petey and I stopped by for a few things, and like always I checked in at the deli to see if the beans were around. Nope, no dice.

I said hey to Mizz Katz, and turned away to pick out some rolls for tonight’s steak sandwiches when she called me back. Knowing how much I like her beans, and how unlucky I’ve been lately, she’d saved some for me.  I finally got my beans.  She made my day.

Petey is a big fan of Mizz Katz, as well.  He loves her hot wings.  But lately his new favorites are crispy potato wedges.  They’re creamy on the inside, with the crispy crust of a piece of fried chicken.  Very tasty by themselves, they’re even better dunked in ranch dressing, or honey mustard.

I decided to try and recreate them at home.  But, there were some complications.

If you google “crispy potato wedges”, you’ll find pages and pages of recipes.  Unfortunately, they’re all for miraculous wedges that you’d think were fried, but are actually baked. Yeah … no.

Mizz Katz’s wedges looked like the offspring of a pickle spear, and extra crispy fried chicken. There was no baking involved; these puppies had obviously spent time in bubbling oil. I decided to treat them like my tenders, using buttermilk and self-rising flour, for a golden crispy coating.

Then I had to figure out how to get the inner flesh cooked through and creamy.  I thought about America’s Test Kitchen. Sometimes they would par-cook a food in the microwave, prior to finishing it with another method. For the wedges, this tactic made the most sense to me.

When I picked out the potatoes, I chose baking spuds that were regular in shape, with no weird bumps, nodules, or ridges, so the wedges would be of a very similar size and shape, thus taking the same amount of time to cook.

But even though I had a plan, it was still a crap shoot how they would turn out.  But as the first line of this column implies, they were a big hit — especially with Petey.

Petey’s Crispy Wedges

2 baking potatoes

2 cups self-rising flour

1 ½ cups buttermilk

Vegetable oil for frying

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Cut each washed, unpeeled tater lengthwise into 8 equal pieces.  On a plate, fan out one potato, season with salt and pepper, and cover with a damp paper towel.  Microwave for three minutes, spin the plate, and microwave for two more minutes, or until the flesh is cooked enough for a knife to easily pierce.  Repeat with second spud.

In a heavy frying pan (cast iron is preferred) heat about an inch of oil to 350 degrees.  Dredge spears in seasoned flour, then buttermilk, then flour again.  Shake off excess and fry, flipping potato when bottom is golden.  Fry until it’s golden and crispy all over.  Sprinkle with a touch of salt.

Keep warm on a cooling rack in oven until they’re all finished.  Makes 4 hearty servings.

The night I made them, Petey stuffed himself, then went on and on about how much he liked them. At one point he sighed, and in a cartoonishly exaggerated Southern accent, said, “I like dem taters.” My Petey; he’s an alright guy. I think I’ll keep him.

Thanks for your time.

Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is momsequitur@gmail.com.