I first ate these beautiful looking potato nests at a lovely cafe called “caffe dei portici” established in 1870 in Genoa (Italy) where these were the speciality of the day I visited!It was scribbled on the black board outside ‘Nido di patate‘ which was all dutch to me ..but there was a big fat potato pic by the side of it.Now, when you go to such countries where language is a hurdle, you come to realize the importance of pictures, expression on faces and actions by hands….Thinking that potato is the safest veggie bet, I ordered it …only to find out that they were topped with salmon :)…It was quite a few years back , I had no idea of the language or cuisine…only Chow & Grazie on language front and pizza & pasta on food :) and even after the surprises, I fell in love with these at first bite!
The ones I had were with sour cream and smoked salmon.Now, did I just say that these are new to me..no no no…actually these are the phoren cousin of Indian aaloo basket which is stuffed with fruits, sprouts ,yogurt and tamarind chutney and makes for a lip smacking chaat item …a haldiram’s speciality!
The ones here are just a sophisticated version decked up with videshi ingredients to make up for a stylish looking appetizer. Now,making[read baking ]these up was a mammoth task for me.The fried version is really easy and fast. After 2 failed attempts, I could manage few decent looking ones which did seem like lone cousins of some ugly duckling but still thought of posting them coz I had put in so much effort! There are numerous recipes floating around on the internet but none of them was of much use sadly :( To cut the story short, whosoever well said that practice makes (wo)man perfect was indigenous but extreme ! :)
The potatoes to be used for making these nests have to be super starchy.Though the fried version lasts for days together without losing its crispness, the baked version has a downside…u can only make them 4-5 hours in advance before serving/eating. The baked recipe is really healthy in the sense that not even one teaspoon oil is needed for making the nests and all of us know that boiled potatoes are actually really good for health so you will have a lot of room of making them slightly unhealthy by decking them up with whatever you like :) At least I did topped them with lot of goodies!! :-) Now there’s another catch, you can very well top all the veggies with cheese and throw these into the oven till the cheese melts but because I like the taste of fresh mozzarella, I prefered to keep the bits and the crunchiness of veggies! Again the same funda…Your dish..Your Wish!! :)
What I need:
For the nests
- 3 russet potatoes
- 1 tsp crushed black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- water for boiling
For the filling (there is no measurement as such , just chop and combine anything )I am jotting down for recipe sake only!!
- 3 tbsp diced zucchini
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp hot sauce (or adjust to taste)
- 1 tsp oregano
- 3 tbsp diced tomatoes
- 4 tbsp fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces
- Salt to taste
- Cilantro /Parsley for garnish (optional)
- A few dollops of sour cream (if you wish)
How I did it :
- In a large pan with a lid, boil unpeeled potatoes in lots of water over high heat till just cooked,about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and then refrigerate until cold.
- Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan saute the diced zucchini in 1 tsp olive oil for about 2 minutes.
- In a small bowl mix the sautéed zucchini,diced tomatoes, mozzarella, oregano,hot sauce and salt and combine well.Refrigerate till ready to serve.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease 6 cups of your muffin sheet. Alternatively, you can also make these using mini muffin tray.
- Peel and coarsely grate the potatoes. Gently toss grated potatoes with salt and pepper in a bowl.
- In each muffin cup,place about 2 heaped tbsp of the potato mixture and press against bottom and up sides.Do not spread or press the mixture too hard else holes will form while baking.
- Bake the potato nests until edges are dark golden, about 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool the baked nests in muffin sheet for 10 minutes.Thereafter, carefully remove nests from the muffin sheet and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to set .Leave at room temperature.
- Just before serving, preheat the oven to 375 F. Remove the paper towel beneath the nests and bake untill the nests are thoroughly heated and crisp.Around 6-9 minutes.
- Transfer the nests to the serving platter.Using a small spoon, tip in the veggie mixture into each potato nest and top each nest with a dollop of light sour cream and if desired , a cilantro/parsley leaf.
- Serve right away !
- You can also use store-bought thawed hash browns for making the nests.
- Use whatever topping you want ..spinach,mushrooms,salmon,eggs,bacon,basil, chives …anything or everything u want!!
Okay..now as they say that save the best for the last…but I will unveil it now :
My recipe for Mirchi Ka Salan/Green Chillies in Peanut Sesame Sauce was chosen as one amongst the best of blog hop (volume 13) last week! Read more about it here….Yipeee….I am really happy and thankful to all the hosts of the event for acknowledging my efforts :)
Sending this to summer/fall fest