Fried potatoes with green chiles
When I was writing my first cookbook, I wanted to include a carnitas recipe that had been on my site. It was adapted from the late cookbook author Diana Kennedy’s method, and so I reached out to her to ask permission to use the dish.
In my message to her, I shared with her the changes that I had made, such as seasoning the dish with cumin. Kennedy, an English woman who lived in Mexico, was known for not liking its earthy flavor.
She replied to my request saying that it fine to use the adaptation of her recipe, but not to include her name with the dish as it was now different from her original. “This is your recipe,” she wrote.
At the time, I wasn’t sure if she was being kind. Not only did she not use cumin in her recipes, but she was also known for saying that the Tex-Mex was not her favorite cuisine because it often called for said spice.
While clearly I disagree with her about Tex-Mex, which is not only one of my favorite cuisines because of its cheesy, easy comfort, but also because it’s worthy of appreciation due to its lineage and history, I still respect her work. We’re all entitled to our opinions.
Indeed, her first cookbook, The Cuisines of Mexico, has a place of pride on my bookshelf, and has inspired many posts on this site, such as squash blossom quesadillas, chalupas poblanas, and corn and green chile soup. My mom sent me my late grandfather’s copy of the book when I was in my early 20s living in Iowa City, and I’ve been cooking from this book for 30 years.
It was her words that guided me as I first attempted to make tortillas, learned that chalupas are different in Mexico than in Texas, and that chile con queso didn’t have to be prepared with processed cheese.
One of the recipes in that collection takes potatoes and sautés them with strips of green chiles and aromatics. It’s a simple yet satisfying skillet that can also be blended with chorizo, bacon, or cheese for a more complete dish. I eat it as a side to roast meats, stirred into my scrambled eggs, as a meatless meal with beans, or stuffed into tortillas.
Her version called for poblano chiles, which I enjoy. But I also like to prepare it with long green chiles such as Hatch. Her seasoning is sparse, though I also add cumin, which I know that she would not approve. I also throw in tomatoes, which is another change, but I like the color and flavor they bring.
All these changes are okay, however, as I feel recipes are meant to be shared and to be shaped into what pleases the cook. She may not have agreed with that either, but I am still thankful for all the recipes she learned and then presented to the world.
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Fried potatoes with green chiles
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 pounds Russet potatoes (2 or 3), peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ cup water
- 8 Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, and cut into ¼”-wide strips
- 2 plum tomatoes, diced or 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, diced
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil on medium-low. Add the onions and while occasionally stirring, cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.
- Stir in the salt, ground cumin, and pepper, then add the potatoes. Stir the potatoes until well combined with the onions and garlic.
- Pour the water into the skillet, then cover. Cook the potatoes covered for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove the lid. While occasionally stirring, continue cooking the potatoes until the water is reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of oil and then add the green chile strips and tomatoes.
- While occasionally stirring, continue to cook until the potatoes are beginning to crisp and the tomatoes are softened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. Serve warm.
I just wanted to say I have three of your cookbooks and love them all. I always look forward to your emails. Thanks for sharing.
Cynthia–Thank you for your support and the kind words! It’s readers such as you that make this all worthwhile, and I look forward to sharing more recipes with you!
oddly enough, i had somehow never heard of diana kennedy until your carnitas recipe – which is one of my absolute favorites and i have made countless times since you posted it! and when she died recently, i learned many things i didn’t know about her, like how she was dismissive of the concept of tex-mex as a cuisine (uh, it most definitely is) and how even if mexican cooks made a recipe that was different from what she learned/perceived to be the “original”, this was also unacceptable. honestly, it kind of blew me away and left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. still, she is human, and we all have our flaws to be sure. and she did do so much during her career, and i appreciate the authenticity and history she brought to her recipes, even if she seemed to leave the people out of the equation. a complicated but important legacy, as it were.
the history of food is so important, but i believe that history also includes evolution, adaptation, and the stories of those who bring it to us. they are inextricably linked. and i am glad that your blog and books bring all of the above.
Stephanie–People are complicated, though I will always be grateful for the recipes that she did share with the world. Thank you for the kind words. I’m also reticent to change sometimes, but I recognize it’s inevitable and it’s better to embrace it rather than fight it. That plus stories are what make food so interesting!
I loved your comments about Diana Kennedy–she was definitely my introduction to Mexican cuisine, and I think I have all of her books. But her recipes are only snapshots of the many versions of each of her dishes. Most traditional cooks I know do their own thing–making their beloved traditional recipes without ever referring to a cookbook, and I suspect their results not only differ from cook to cook, but from time to time, and evolve as well. I wrote down a bunch of family favorites about 20 years ago and gave those booklets to my 3 adult children, and when I recently read one over, I realize that I now rarely fix those things exactly as written.
I’m with you about cumin. I spent many years in the Middle East, and it’s used a lot there, too. For instance, hummus–as soon as I tasted it at a Mediterranean restaurant when I returned to the US, my immediate question was–“where’s the cumin?” I didn’t even know that someone might actually leave it out. It has a real affinity for any sort of bean and is perfect with potatoes, too. This recipe was a great side dish with grilled pork chops last night (seasoned with the much maligned Tajin, but how can lime, garlic, and chili ever be wrong?). The leftovers will show up at breakfast soon.
Janet–Cumin can be divisive, much like cilantro. After I had Covid, I had problems with both because they tasted off to me, which was awful because I use them so often. Fortunately, that ended, but I do understand now why some may not appreciate the flavors as I had my own experience with them tasting unpleasant. Though I agree, it goes well with beans and potatoes. And I”m glad you enjoyed the dish! The leftovers do make fine additions in breakfast tacos or alongside a plate of eggs.