A month ago if you had asked how my hometown sets itself apart from other regions and their cuisines, I would have struggled to come up with an answer. To me, the Pittsburgh area has long been a melting pot of ethnic specialties. Pizza, pierogies, pita and souvlaki all played a part in shaping my palate.
Then I took a trip back home and was reminded how much Pittsburghers like their fries. I admit, most people like a good, crisp, golden french fry. How many, though, slip them inside breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees? Where I grew up, a lot do.
As my college roommate reminded me over a shrimp salad served atop fries, we were raised on salads with deep-fried potatoes tucked in between the lettuce leaves. Then there were the odd omelets filled with cheese, meat and french fries. And how could I forget Primanti Bros.’s fry- and coleslaw-stuffed sandwiches, which I still insist on having any time that I’m in Pittsburgh.
Why fries on the inside? Well, there are fewer plates to wash if you don’t serve them as a side. Pick them up between two slices of bread and you forgo the greasy fingers. Yet, I doubt that these are the reasons why. I’ll chalk it up to a happy accident—someone tried it, liked it, served it to someone else and the rest is history.
In my health-conscious family we didn’t eat fries, in or alongside entrees, very often. Delightfully salty and oily, they were a rare treat, one that my mother left to those possessing fryolators and serious grease burns.
Unfortunately, I haven’t strayed far from her stance. Want savory, fried potatoes at my house? Unless you bring your own french fries, you’ll probably eat the following side dish. Slipping them into your salad, sandwich or omelet is optional.
CRISPY ROSEMARY POTATOES
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, quartered, and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place the potatoes in medium-sized stockpot filled with boiling salted water. Boil until the potatoes are slightly tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside.
In a large frying or sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high.
Add the potatoes and cook, tossing periodically, until browned, 15 minutes.
Add the garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper, stir to combine, and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately.