Syracuse Salt Potatoes

"I think of Syracuse Salt Potatoes as big, thick, warm, fuzzy, buttery potato chips." Meathead

Syracuse, NY, was once a major salt production center and is still known as the "Salt City." It has a main drag named Salina Street, and the suburb of Liverpool even has a Salt Museum on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where, until 1920, brine from the salty marshes near the lake was converted to "white gold."

The recipe for Salt Potatoes came about in the 1800s when, legend has it, Irish salt miners made lunch by putting potatoes in baskets and lowered them into the kettles of boiling brine. The spuds were then crowned with gobs of butter.

The locals love their Salt Potatoes, and they are on menus of restaurants from Albany to Buffalo, and from Jamestown to Binghamton. They are so popular that groceries sell Salt Potato kits - just bags of potatoes with the right amount of salt enclosed.

When I serve Salt Potatoes with ribs, I eat both with my fingers and let the sauce and butter mix create the best licking this side of an ice cream cone. These little nuggets are especially good with other Upstate specialties: Cornell Chicken, Binghamton Spiedies, and Buffalo Chicken Wings. Leftovers reheat well in the microwave or fry and grill easily since there is so much butter on them.

 

I have two recipes below, the original recipe, which, now that I no longer live in Central New York, seems a bit heavy handed to my palate. So I've riffed on the theme and created a modern recipe by toning down the salt and butter and then amping it up with garlic and herbs. Then I tossed them on the grill to brown and crunchify them. Just don't call them Syracuse Salt Potatoes.

The Original Salt Potatoes Recipe

Makes. 4 servings at 1/2 pound each

Prep time. 15 minutes

Cooking time. 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potato chunks

Ingredients

2 quarts (1/2 gallon) water

1/2 pound salt

2 pounds small waxy potatoes, new potatoes, or fingerlings

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)

About the potatoes. White potatoes are standard, but you can use red skinned potatoes if you wish.

About the salt. It doesn't matter if you use table salt or kosher salt since the recipe goes by weight.

Method

1) First, read my article on The Science of Potatoes. Then wash the potatoes thoroughly, scrubbing them with a scrubby sponge. Make sure you get all the soap out of the sponge, please. Cut out any bad spots or growing eyes, but leave the skin on and leave them whole.

2) Then bring the water to a hard boil. Add the salt and stir until dissolved. Add the taters being careful not to splash yourself. Boil until a fork slides in and out of a potato with ease, about 20-30 minutes.

3) Pour the potatoes into a strainer or colander in the sink and drain. Let them sit for a few minutes and they should get a slight frosting of salt. Put the hot pot back on the burner and turn it to medium. Add the butter and melt it. Then add the potatoes, stir to coat with butter, and serve.

 


A Modern Grilled Salt Potatoes Recipe with Less Salt

Makes. 4 servings at 1/2 pound each

Prep time. 15 minutes

Cooking time. 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potato chunks

Ingredients

2 quarts (1/2 gallon) water

1/8 pound salt

2 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes or other small, waxy or new potatoes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

2 cloves of freshly pressed garlic

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh green herbs, especially chives, parsley, thyme, or rosemary

Optional add-ins. 1/4 teaspoon paprika for color and 4 strips of bacon, crumbled.

Method

1) First, read my article on The Science of Potatoes. Then wash the potatoes thoroughly, scrubbing them with a scrubby sponge. Make sure you get all the soap out of the sponge, please. Cut out any bad spots or growing eyes, but leave the skin on. Cut them in half and then cut the big chunks smaller so they are about the same size.

2) Then bring the water to a hard boil. Add the salt and stir until dissolved. Add the taters being careful not to splash yourself. Boil until a fork slides in and out of a potato with ease, about 20 to 30 minutes.

3) Preheat the grill with a 2-zone fire for indirect cooking.

4) Pour the potatoes into a strainer or colander in the sink. Put the hot pot back on the burner and turn it down to medium. Immediately add the butter and melt it. Add the garlic to the melting butter and let it cook for about 2 minutes, then add the potatoes. After the potatoes add the fresh herbs. If you only have dried herbs, add them to the butter with the garlic a minute or two before the potatoes so the oil will moisten them flakes and extract the flavors.

5) Now toss them on the grill over the medium part of the fire and roll them around until golden and crispy on all sides and serve.

 

Salt Potatoes

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