I ate this dish first in a restaurant in Miller, Indiana, a tiny town nestled inside the Indiana Dunes State Park. I was visiting an old, old friend whose mother had recently passed. We were engaged in clearing out the house, which would then be bulldozed and returned to the dunes, as would the lots on all sides of the house. Her mother, in turn a very old friend of my late grandfather’s, had loved the dunes. Throughout her life she bought up the surrounding lots as they came available, exactly so that this could happen upon her death. She collected yarn, and saved every tiny notebook in which she recorded bird sightings on her innumerable visits to the American wild. Behind her house the dunes rose steeply, heavily forested with mature oaks. Across the road the dunes fell steeply toward the lake. The stars always blazed brighter there, and the oak-studded dunes loomed blacker.
In the night, while my friend and I were staying in her house, raccoons would come into the kitchen through the cat door. We could hear them opening and closing the lower cabinet doors: bump, thump, bump. I can only suppose that my friend’s mom used to feed them that way.
Chipotle peppers are ripe (red) jalapeno peppers that have been smoked and then preserved in adobo sauce, which is red and a bit spicy. The peppers and sauce have a great, round, mouth-filling sabor but only moderate heat.
When I tasted red potatoes cooked with garlic and chipotle peppers in Miller, they blew me away. This recipe is my approximation. Serves four, with leftovers.
1 cup water
1 whole head-worth of garlic cloves, peeled, with stem-end cut off
2 lb. red potatoes, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds, then in half
1 to 2 chipotle peppers, minced, with whatever sauce adheres
(chipotles come in a little can…save the leftovers)
2 T flour per each fist-sized potato
1 T salt
1 T sugar or brown sugar
2 T olive oil, 2 T butter
Boil the garlic for about 5 minutes in the water. Add the potatoes (should be enough water to cover them). Add the oil, chipotle pepper, salt, and sugar. Cover and cook until potatoes are completely soft. Drain, but reserve the drained water. Put the drained potatoes in a deep bowl.
In a small, heavy pan, heat the butter, then add the flour and stir until the flour is browned (i.e. make a roux).
Stir the roux into the potatoes to coat them evenly. Then stir in the drained garlicky water. Mix thoroughly to make a nice slurry. The potatoes will be soft but slightly lumpy, unless you mash them up or whip them thoroughly, as you please.
For later: put the leftover chipotle peppers into a small jar with a tight lid and keep them frozen for that moment when you want just a scraping of smoky hot flava.
Chipotle is a magical ingredient. You can do stuff with small amounts that blows people’s minds. Use it wisely.
For a novel with no peppers but plenty of spice and all the environmentalist intensity I learned from my late grandfather and my friend’s late mother, try Trash Sex Magic.
The heroine and her mother are the town hussies. Across the road grows a tree that used to be a man and is now a god. Real estate developers buy the land, cut down the tree, and kill the god: sex miracles spray all over the landscape. The heroine has four days to find another man to take his place.