Smashed potatoes require little else besides the potatoes and a little oil, or they can demand everything from bacon to canned French-fried onions and sour cream. There are dozens of ways to make smashed potatoes. The wise cook knows to precook them in their skins before baking, frying, or broiling. As the skins stay on, many cooks opt for organic and a good scrubbing to remove residue is de rigueur.
Even a cook on a camping trip can create memorable smashed potatoes. Three of the easiest methods both begin with potatoes that have been boiled in their pajamas and cooled. This can be a do-ahead step for convenience, as long as they are stored in the fridge.
The first approach is the kind of fun that all cooks like. After setting slightly cooled potatoes on a cutting board, the cook just smashes them with the palm of the hand. The best type of smash is done gently but firmly, pressing down on the middle of the potato with the heel of the palm until the spud resembles a burger. Needless to say, the skins will break here and there, which is fine.
Next, the smashed potatoes get a generous drizzle of olive oil. It’s a good idea to flip them to be sure both sides receive the blessing. Sprinkled with any combination of herbs plus salt and pepper and roasted in a hot oven until they are suntanned and crispy, these little treats will vanish as soon as they are served.
The second way to prepare smashed potatoes uses a heavy skillet on the stove stop instead of time in the oven’s belly. Some cooks cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks, while others lightly smoosh them with the bottom of a jar. Tossed into melted butter or olive oil in a skillet with minced garlic and herbs, then flipped around a bit until they are crunchy all around, and voila — there is perfection.
For cooks who prefer smashed potatoes that are kissing cousins of mashed, or for those that eschew all that fat, a third approach is best. After roasting some garlic cloves in the oven, the cook simply mixes them into the boiled potatoes, gently smashing them as they are combined. A few chopped herbs, a splash of cream, and dinner is served.
Cooks who want to go whole hog can toss one in in the form of crispy, fried bacon, ham, or sausage, or — what the heck — all three. This version calls for cream cheese or sour cream or — what the heck — both. Scallions and roasted or sautéed garlic add to the fun, and a crunchy container of broken-up onions rings creates the kind of glorious flavors worth dying for. This one needs to spend time in the oven to brown to perfection.