When I was a kid, I thought my dad was one heck of an innovative cook.
Well, OK, not on a regular basis…
I mean, Pop was really only in charge of potatoes and veggies — and, as we are of Maritime Canada Scottish descent, vegetables were usually overcooked carrots, beans, or peas. I despised these mushy sides and found all kinds of creative ways of getting them from plate to garbage or toilet (including hiding them in my pants).
Dad was also our resident BBQ boss. Again, with our Maritime background, our flame grilled meats also tended to be a bit on the overdone side. What an eye opener it was as a young teen to find that beef could actually be served with some pink it.
My siblings will be quick to add that Pop made one heck of a macaroni and cheese, but, as much as I love comfort food, I would have hardly classified that as innovative.
Where I really saw his flair for innovation was in two dishes: a cheesy, gooey, beefy mess that we called “Slop” (really, the world’s best homemade Hamburger Helper, flavoured with that essential kitchen staple: packaged onion soup mix); and BBQ roasted potatoes — always referred to by his name: “Ross Potatoes.”
While I now realize that neither of these dishes were particularly innovative — “Slop” being a product of those casserole-happy ’70’s and “Ross Potatoes” a BBQ standard — I still think of them being very much my dad’s creations. They are a big part of my childhood memories of him, even if my mom doesn’t let him eat either of them anymore. At least not on a regular basis.
But times change. My folks aren’t nearly as fond of boiled vegetables as they used to be. You can actually find quite a bit of rare beef coming off their grill. And they’ve become appreciative of healthy, local, seasonal fare. Actually, my mom became a salad monster sometime during the late 80’s and never looked back.
But as much as things change, others remain the same. I’d gladly dig into a bowlful of “Slop,” for instance. I’d probably suffer afterwards, but…
And I still love “Ross Potatoes.” In fact, I make them on a fairly regular basis during BBQ season.
The best part of “Ross Potatoes” is that you can enjoy them as a local favourite all year ’round. While Dad’s version was made simply of potatoes, onions, butter, salt and pepper, I often take advantage of seasonal flavours (making use of chives, garlic chives, garlic scapes, green garlic, green onions, shallots… whatever allium is fresh from our garden or market).
This time of year, I love making use of wild leeks. Their unique spring flavour is only available for a few weeks every year — and I love to capitalize on it. With last year’s potatoes and local butter, these “Ross Potatoes” are pretty close to 100% local. And until we start mining salt and growing local peppercorns, it’s as good as you’re going to get.
I’d like to thank Pop for sharing his original recipe with me, years ago. It’s a simple one, but a classic.
And now, my take on perfection:
Donald Potatoes (BBQ Roasted Potatoes with Wild Leeks)
Wild leeks (to taste)
Butter (to taste, but don’t skimp, call it a teaspoon per medium potato)
Salt and pepper
- Preheat BBQ to 450 degrees (or so)
- Slice potatoes to an 1/8 inch thickness.
- Chop wild leeks (finely for bulbs and stems, coarsely for leaves).
- Arrange potatoes lengthwise on a sheet of tinfoil (see photo)
- Cut butter into teaspoon-sized chunks over top of potatoes.
- Salt and pepper the potatoes.
- Sprinkle leeks over top.
- Wrap tightly in the foil, rolling the seams and ends.
- BBQ on upper rack until you can smell the potatoes — roughly 45 minutes.