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Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010 03:46 pm

Skordalia

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“Skordalia holds the heart of Greece,” says anthropologist Susanna Hoffman in her Greek cookbook, The Olive and the Caper. “It is loved like mashed potatoes, remembered like warm cookies, dreamed of like a good steak – it’s everyone’s comfort food.… In any café you can order it by the plateful. In every household it welcomes children home from school. It is lavished over fried fish, poured on vegetables, spread on bread. I serve skordalia as a side dish with poultry, spread it over the skin of turkey, chicken and duck before I roast them, rub it over a whole leg of pork as it grills, or put it out as a surprising appetizer dip.”

  • 2 large russet or other baking potatoes
  • 6-12 garlic cloves, peeled, or more or less to taste *See note
  • 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt, plus additional if needed
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • Approximately 1 c. flavorful extra virgin olive oil
  • Kalamata olives for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 450°. Scrub the potatoes and bake them until a knife pierces them easily, 45 minutes or longer.

While the potatoes are baking, smash the garlic cloves with the flat of a large knife, then sprinkle them with the salt. Alternate mincing and smashing the garlic until it forms a paste. A garlic press can also be used.

When the potatoes are done, cut them in half lengthwise, scoop out the flesh, and mash with a potato masher or fork until smooth, or put through a ricer. You should have 2 to 3 cups. Stir in the garlic and vinegar. Add olive oil in a thin stream until the mixture is thinner than mashed potatoes, but still fairly thick – about the consistency of hummus. You’ll probably need between ½ and ¾ c. olive oil. Taste the mixture and add more salt if necessary.

Spread the mixture in a thick layer on a plate, then drizzle with a little more olive oil. Garnish with a few olives if desired. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Skordalia is best eaten fresh, although it can be made ahead and refrigerated. Warm it gently in a microwave, then drizzle with the oil and garnish as above.

*Note: Classic skordalia uses lots of garlic. The amount should depend on your preference, but also on how fresh it is. The flavor of older garlic is stronger and should be used more sparingly. Don’t use pre-minced, bottled garlic: it’s too harsh.

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