I received a lovely gift, the other day: a review copy of The American Lighthouse Cookbook: The Best Recipes and Stories from America's Shorelines, by Becky Sue Epstein and Ed Jackson.
In its introduction, this exceptional cookbook states that it "couples food with the romance of the seacoast, adding a dash of history and wrapping it in the very current 'eat local' movement." Lighthouses from around the country - from as far away as Eldred Rock, north of Juneau, to Buck Island, off St. Thomas in the Caribbean - are featured. Fascinating stories are shared about the lighthouses themselves, about their communities, about many of the ingredients, and much more.
In looking through the book - an activity which just draws you in, page after page - I learned about Matinicus Island, Maine, which is "headquarters for the National Audubon Society's Project Puffin, which studies this jaunty-looking (and formerly endangered) bird." I discovered a new treat, the Smith Island Cake: a luscious 10-layer cake that was named "Official Cake of the State of Maryland" in 2008. And I learned a new tidbit about my own state: "Michigan now has more lighthouses than any other state in the country: 124."
After much deliberation - you know me, I always want to make and eat everything! - I settled upon a simple but stellar dish of fried potatoes featuring a hint of curry. I had each of the ingredients on hand, which of course simplified my decision-making process. And this also meant I could be impatient and just start cooking, without having to plan, shop, and only then start to satisfy my cravings.
Bill's Famous Potatoes are served at the Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn in Ahmeek, Michigan, near the tippy top of the state along Lake Superior. Owners Bill and Mary Frabotta had "dreamed of restoring the lighthouse," and were finally able to finish doing so in the mid-1990s. It's now "a charming inn filled with modern conveniences and historic style, open year-round." And the hearty breakfasts served to guests include homemade Danish Coffee Cake, egg casserole, specially blended freshly ground coffee, and these exceptional potatoes which are tender inside, crispy outside, and perfectly seasoned.
The cookbook is divided by region, and then each lighthouse featured within a regional section offers a menu of several dishes. For example, the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle, New Hampshire, offers recipes for a fall supper of Corn Chowder, Mashed Turnips, Baked Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Maple Syrup, Roast Striped Bass with Onion and Fennel, and Upside-Down Apple Pandowdy. And Faro Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo, on the Morrillos Peninsula in Puerto Rico, offers a "Menú Para el Día de Acción de Gracias" - a Thanksgiving feast of Fresh Fruit Cocktail, Green Salad, Rice and Pigeon Peas, Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Garlic, Roasted Turkey with Puerto Rican Beef Dressing, and Sweet Papaya with White Goat Cheese ... sigh.
The American Lighthouse Cookbook showcases dishes from the familiar to the exotic, all of it delicious.
Bill's Famous Potatoes
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2" dice
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- pinch of sugar
Place potatoes into a large mixing bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons oil, Italian seasoning, onion powder, curry powder, salt, and sugar.
Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and start to brown them for 2-3 minutes. Cover the skillet and turn heat down to medium; cook for 5 minutes, stir, then cook for 5 more minutes 'til potatoes are just tender. Uncover and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 more minutes until potatoes are golden brown.
Serves 2-4 as a side dish.