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Savor the spuds: Potato Days and new recipes celebrate tubers

Raghavan Iyer's cookbook, "Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked -- and Fried too!" is a world tour of tuber recipes. Special to The Forum

BARNESVILLE, Minn.—Every year Potato Days in Barnesville, Minn., serves up a range of fantastic foods, from baked potatoes to, potato sausage and dumplings. That's not even considering the French fry feed or the national lefse cook-off.

If you can't get to Barnesville this Friday and Saturday, or want to push the envelope, you can still celebrate the adaptable tuber with some help from Raghavan Iyer's cookbook, "Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked—And Fried Too!"

To Midwesterners, such a spud-centric recipe collection may seem like a surprise from the author of "660 Curries," but the Minneapolis-based author of "Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking" is a recipe consultant for General Mills as well as Target.

Iyer gathers 75 recipes from around the world, from South American potato cakes, llapingachos, to potato salads from Africa, Russia and Japan. And yes, he has a recipe for lefse. For all the global tastes, there are still some down-home fares that may bring a new flavor to your favorite comfort food.

Raghavan Iyer's Hasselback Potatoes with Cardamom Butter. Matthew Benson / Special to The Forum

Hasselback Potatoes with Cardamom Butter

Serves 4


4 large russet potatoes (each 3/4- to 1-pound)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick)

Salted butter, at room temperature

4 bay leaves (optional)

4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 green or white cardamom pods, smashed

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lemon thyme

1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns


Position a rack in the lower half of the oven and preheat to 375 F. Line a pan or pie plate with parchment paper.

Scrub the potatoes well under cold running water and dry with paper towels. Slice each potato crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, making sure you do not cut through the bottom so all the slices to stay attached. Grease the potatoes all over with a bit of the butter and place them in the baking pan. Slip a bay leaf between 2 of the slices in each of the potatoes, if desired.

Roast the potatoes until the slices open out a bit, exposing more of the potato flesh, about 20 minutes.

As the potatoes roast, melt the remaining butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once the butter foams, add the garlic and cardamom and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the thyme, salt and peppercorns. Give it all a good stir.

Once the potatoes have opened up a bit after the initial roast, brush them liberally with the spiced butter. Continue to roast the potatoes, brushing and basting them periodically, until the potato slices fan out and the insides are tender when pierced with a knife, an additional 45 to 50 minutes. Make sure to use up all the butter.

Serve the potatoes while they are still hot.

Raghavan Iyer's Chocolate Sweat Potato Pound Cake. Matthew Benson / Special to The Forum

Chocolate Sweet Potato Pound Cake

Serves 12


8 ounces deep orange sweet potatoes (such as Jewel)

Baking spray, for greasing the pan

2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 3/4 cups white granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, at room temperature


Peel the sweet potatoes and good rinse under cold running water. Cut into small chunks. Place them in a small saucepan and cover them with cold water. Boil over medium-high heat. Partially cover the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and gently boil the potatoes until the pieces fall apart easily when pierced with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes.

As the potatoes cook, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray the inside of a 12-cup Bundt pan or tube pan with baking spray.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and salt into a medium-size bowl. Whisk to blend thoroughly, about 30 seconds.

Once the sweet potatoes have finished cooking, drain them in a colander. Give the colander a good shake or two to get rid of excess water. Return the potatoes to the pan and mash them with a potato masher until smooth.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and attach the whisk. On medium speed, beat the butter until it is very creamy, about 3 minutes. (If you don't have a stand mixer, a handheld mixer will do the trick as well.) Sprinkle in the sugar and continue to beat on medium speed until very fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla until just blended. Add 1 egg and beat on low speed, just until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed just until combined, about 15 seconds per egg, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Still on low speed, add half of the flour mixture; beat only until just blended, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping the bowl halfway through.

Add the sweet potatoes to the batter and beat again on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined and smooth, scraping the bowl halfway through, 30 to 45 seconds.

Spoon and scrape the batter into the prepared pan; smooth the top with a spatula and tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter.

Bake until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer or knife inserted in the cake comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. The top of the cake will be rounded and cracked in the center, but that's okay.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Invert the pan and turn out the cake onto the rack to cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.

Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap until you're ready to serve.

Note: The flavors emerge best when the cake is made a day before you plan on serving it.

Recipes by Raghavan Iyer

If You Go

What: Potato Days

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Barnesville, Minn.

Info: For a full list of events, go to