I am convinced that most Slavic people grew up on these potatoes. My husband shares my memory and whenever it’s mentioned in Russian/Belarussian/Ukrainian company, everyone knows exactly what we’re talking about. I can even picture my mom standing next to the kitchen stove stirring a big black pot full of tushenaya kartoshka – braised potatoes.
This is the Slavic macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, or whatever else American kids grew up eating. Basically, it’s potatoes with meat, onions and carrots. It’s all cooked together in one pot, (Yay for less dishes to wash) and has a homey, comforting taste.
The tender, juicy meat and perfectly cooked chunks of potatoes are coated in a satiny sauce that the carrots, onions and starch from the potatoes form. Yummy! You may not find this on our party menus, but trust me, when you need a quick meal that is comforting and delicious, we roll up our sleeves and get these four simple ingredients in the pot.
Yields: 4-6 servings
1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 3/4 – 1 inch cubes (You can use chicken thighs instead)
1-2 onions, chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and shredded
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
butter, oil, for sauteeing
salt, pepper, dry bay leaf
1 1/2 cups water
Fresh herbs, parsley, chives, etc.
Heat about 1 Tablespoon of oil in a medium pot and cook the meat on high heat until brown on both sides, seasoning with salt and pepper. To get beautifully brown meat, make sure the meat is dry, you may even want to blot it dry with some paper towels. If the meat is wet, it won’t crisp and will steam. Cook the meat in batches, so that there is room around each piece of meat. If you dump it all in, it will cook, but will turn out gray and will also steam. Cook on high (or medium high at least) and don’t touch the meat until it releases by itself. This will create beautiful crispy-brown exterior and be very flavorful. All that fond on the bottom of the pot is very flavorful too, which means that the end results will be so much richer in flavor.
Set the meat aside, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in the same pot, (without washing it) and add onions, cooking on medium heat until tender. Add carrots, cooking on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes. Add the meat to the carrots and onions, mix it all together, add a dry bay leaf. You can also add some tomato paste, garlic, and other spices at this point, such as cumin, coriander, thyme, etc. Add the potatoes, leaving the potatoes on top and not mixing them. This will cook the meat, carrots and onions without turning the potatoes into mush. They will gently be steaming on top. Pour in the water, so its barely covering the potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25-30 minutes, just until potatoes are cooked through. Stir gently and garnish with fresh herbs.
By the way, heat up leftovers in a nonstick skillet, with a bit of butter and add some shredded cheese. Wow, this really brought me back to my childhood.