Quarantine Cooking in the Year 2020: Grandpa Darrel’s Sheepherder Potatoes

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Upstate New York  I  Sunday, 1 November 2020

Idaho russet potatoes, or yellow potatoes
Onions
Butter
Salt (Redmond RealSalt is preferred)
Pepper

I’ll leave the quantities up to you, since I don’t know how many you’ll be feeding, and I never ate his cooking. I DO know he loved onions, and so did my mother, so I used one medium onion: to one large potato: to two tablespoons butter.

Do NOT use margarine in this recipe, or Grandpa Darrel will come back from the grave to lecture and haunt you, just like all the other farmers I know. He died in 1970.

Bake the potato, stabbed with a fork on two sides and wrapped in foil, in a 350 degree oven for around an hour, or however long your oven takes make a potato that’s easily pierced with a fork.

Carefully remove the potato from the oven and unwrap, being careful not to give yourself a steam burn. You can let the potato rest, as it’s much easier to slice when it’s cooled.

Slice the potato in half, so you can always have a flat side down on the cutting board.

Choose your sharpest knife. If you can’t slice easily through the peel, pierce the potato with your knife point first, and then place the blade of the knife in the slit and then slice as thinly as you can, without the potato crumbling.

Once your potato is sliced, chop up an onion. The pieces don’t have to be very small, as they will cook down.

Choose a metal spatula, NOT plastic or wood, one with a flat end. You’ll be using the spatula not only to stir, but to turn the potatoes, and to chop any large bits of potato and onion into smaller pieces.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. I don’t know what type of pan he would have used, but I’m guessing cast iron, based on the time period he would have been making this recipe, and the type of stove or campfire he was might have been cooking on. I use vintage Revere Ware.

When the butter is mostly melted, add the onions all at once into the pan, and stir them around in the butter until they start to soften and take on a clear appearance. (This is called sweating an onion.) Push the onions to the sides of the pan, leaving the center open for potatoes.

Next, add your potatoes, making sure to only add as many as you can place in the pan so most of one side of each potato is touching the pan and will get nicely browned.

Once the potatoes are crisply browned around the edges, you can stir the onion and potato together. Continually stir them, until the potato pieces are brown and white and the onions a dark brown.

Remove from pan to a warm ceramic or stoneware plate. I suppose if you had a small cast iron skillet, you could place it on the table on a dishtowel, and eat directly from it.

I don’t know what Grandpa and his kids put on top of Sheepherders, other than the infamous salt and pepper. I love to streak ketchup across mine, and eat them with a slightly runny over-easy egg.

I think a glass of orange juice tastes best to wash them down with, but I also like to have a mug of milk on the table, too.

Grandpa Darrel, the farmer, would want it that way. Enjoy!