I’ve been a city mouse since my parents brought me home from the hospital to their tiny apartment in downtown Manhattan, where I soon made the acquaintance of our unwanted neighbors, the actual mice.
As I got older, though, and my worldview began to expand as far and wide as my parents’ airfare budget would take me, I began to learn the ways of country mouse living. This education grew new wings in the backwoods of Vermont, when I spent my first summer at sleep away camp.
While most of my city mouse friends had opted for establishments with color war teams and cabins that had outlets for their straightening irons, I instead elected to go to a horsemanship camp. When we weren’t venturing out on multi-day pack trips with our steeds, our living quarters were tents pitched on plywood. It was shabby without the chic. I later learned that a significant percentage of the older girls had been sent to this camp by their parents as punishment.
My parents, on the other hand, found the place hopelessly creepy, and couldn’t understand why I insisted on going back summer after summer. Perhaps it was the country mouse in me finally getting room to roam, but I loved it.
Another big reason would have to have been the baked potatoes. Every time we went on a camping trip, we stashed a few spuds in our saddle packs for dinner. They’d get wrapped in foil and plunged into the hot coals of the fire, then eaten with sour cream, bacon bits, and a small nesting cutlery set.
Though I have mostly regressed back to my early days as a full-fledged city mouse, I still think of those summers. My chore wheel looks a little different now, as do my go-to potatoes, but I still get to enjoy both within the small confines of my New York City apartment.
A whole roasted spud immediately transports me to the back woods of my camp in Vermont, where we would wrap them in tin foil and stick them directly in the fire. I love imbuing that same comfort into my dinner parties, while making the garnishes fancy enough to serve to paying clients.
Instead of the usual sour cream, I’ve slathered them with green goddess sauce that’s lightened up with avocado, plenty of herbs, and Greek yogurt. Instead of bacon bits, this vegetarian recipe uses thinly sliced shallots that are lightly fried in coconut oil until golden brown.
Most important of all, these high-low potatoes are made even easier and more elegant with their cooking method: the Wolf Gourmet countertop oven. The potatoes can be set directly on the wire rack until the skin is puckered and the flesh soft. The convection setting speeds up the process even more, and the glass door makes it easy to check on their progress as they cook—much less precarious than fishing your way into a fire pit.
They make the ideal plant-based side dish for a festive summer party. And if you’re feeling extra indulgent, and want to go even higher, a little caviar on top wouldn’t hurt either.
Phoebe Lapine is a food and health writer, gluten-free chef, wellness personality, culinary instructor, and speaker, born and raised in New York City, where she continues to live and eat. On her award-winning blog, Feed Me Phoebe, she shares recipes for healthy comfort food and insights about balanced lifestyle choices beyond what’s on your plate. Her debut memoir, The Wellness Project, chronicles her journey with Hashimotos Thyroiditis and how she finally found the middle ground between health and hedonism by making one lifestyle change, one month at a time.
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