Smack-Flat Potatoes

October 1, 2012



Any of you who’ve been reading in this space for any length of time probably already know that I’m kind of totally a nervous small dog of a person.

I mean, remember this report card?

Clearly, I haven’t evolved.

The list of things I’m wary of, weirded out by, or flat-out freaked out over is about as long as…I don’t know, the Lewis and Clark expedition?

I don’t know how the cherished people in my life put up with me, but somehow they do, and for that I am grateful.

This past week, I had to go face-to-face with one of my A-List archenemies: The dentist.

I get completely gorked out if I have to go to the dentist. Yes, readers, I am one of those freaks who fears the man in the white coat with a drill in his hand.

In fact, I fear the dentist so much that I hadn’t gone for a check-up in…ahem. How do I say this delicately? Seven years.

I know.

I have very good dental hygeine, so I tell myself that this is enough. I don’t really need to see the dentist annually, do I? I’m a pro flosser. Pro flossers get time off for good habits, don’t they? Okay, maybe seven years is pushing it, but the dentist office is a terrifying place! I’d rather spend time in a morgue than in the dentist chair.

Being the mature adult that I am, I just put it off. Until I got the toothache from Hades, which gave me headaches from Hades, and it became increasingly clear that I was going to have to brave the dentist’s office.

We have a neighbor who is a lovely man and happens to be a dentist–in fact, he’s the Minxes’ dentist–but there was no way I was booking an appointment with him. I see him at the bus stop daily, and the thought of him seeing me every morning and muttering to himself, “Hi there, you freak who hasn’t gone to the dentist in seven years,” was too much to bear.

So I made an appointment with a dentist far enough out of city limits so that I’d never run into her at the grocery store. I also copped to being highly nervous about going to the dentist. I believe I used the term “schizoid.” She promptly prescribed Valium and scheduled my appointment. I liked her already.

There was one leeeetle problem, though. Nervous freaks on Valium can’t drive. So I had to beg Awesome Stepkid Ro to drive me, looped out on Valium, to a dentist out of city limits. To his credit, he didn’t roll his eyes even once. I guess if you’re a nervous small dog, people just get used to you.

It was ugly, folks. I mean, it started out okay. As per directions, I popped my happy pill an hour before my appointment and was quite relaxed on the drive there. I was relaxed when they took x-rays and cleaned up my teeth. And then they told me that, because I am a nervous small dog, I gnash my teeth. I gnash my teeth so hard and so often that I’d cracked both of the crowns on my molars (I got those crowns many moons ago, when I still thought it prudent to consume CornNuts). I also had a cavity.

Ratsratsrats. No way was I going back to the dentist until absolutely necessary, so they went to work. The cavity was the first order of business, but I wasn’t too worried–they’d give me the nitrous oxide and I wouldn’t feel a thing.

Then they took my blood pressure. 181. So much for the soothing powers of Valium. 181=no nitrous oxide. Many needles were stuck into my pie-hole and then the dreaded drill came out, and dangit, it still hurt. Aggg! I gargled, as she was drilling away. More needles. Onto the worst of the crowns, which was of course, at the very back of my mouth. “Can you open any wider?” the dentist kept asking.

My mouth was open so wide I think you could have stuck a fucking cantaloupe in there, so no, I couldn’t open any wider. I’m a people pleaser, though, so I tried. I remained in the Jaws position for what seemed like an eternity. Whoever had put on that old crown had obviously used Crazy Glue, because the dang thing wouldn’t come off, no matter how long she drilled and pulled on the thing. That Valium buzz? Sooo long gone.

Finally, a chunk of the crown cried Uncle. In a renegade move, it flew off at rocket speed and lodged directly in the back of my throat. Gargggghhhh! I cried, eyes watering, and I sat up, trying to hack the offending object out of my throat.

“Aww, we have a gagger,” the dental assistant said compassionately, banging on my back until I could breathe again.

Two-plus hours later, I left the office, temporary crowns in place. Awesome Stepkid Ro took one look at me and wrapped his arm around my torso, walking me out like an invalid. I was given instructions not to chew gum or eat (ha) CornNuts until my permanent crowns come in. The next day, as I shoved a guacamole-laden tortilla chip into my mouth, I felt a Pop! Well hello there, temporary crown, now sitting on my tongue.

Guess where I’m going back this week?

In the meantime, I’m sticking to soft foods, so I don’t dislodge the other temporary sucker hanging out in my mouth. These potatoes almost make it worth it.

Remember how I complained a while back about having side-dish ennui? These are an excellent antidote. Sure, they’re potatoes, but they’re a lovely contrast of textures–creamy on the inside, crunchy (but not CornNut crunchy!) on the outside. It takes a bit of extra effort to make this dish, but it’s not overly taxing, and it’s impressive. Seriously. Serve these guys up and your guest will think you’ve worked some culinary voodoo.

Now about that Valium Salt Lick? Anyone invented it yet?


Smack-Flat Potatoes

slightly adapted from Bon Appetit

serves 6-8

2 pounds medium yukon gold potatoes (about 6 oz. each)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence or dried basil

3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 350. Wrap each potato individually in foil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until tender, about an hour.

Cool slightly.

Unwrap potatoes and press down on each one gently with a potato masher to squash. Try to squash them without breaking them apart too badly. Season with salt, pepper and herbs. Drizzle on both sides with the oil and place back on the baking sheet.

Crank the oven heat to 500. Roast potatoes for 15 minutes; gently turn them over and roast until golden, about 20 minutes more.


**If any of you readers have some dorky phobia, please share. It would make me feel so much better!

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