Jonji and I don’t go on dates much anymore, but we recently spent one very enjoyable evening at Alderwood in Downtown Santa Cruz with four of our close friends. It feels like a novel experience to be able to enjoy a meal without scarfing down your food as fast as you can before an impatient toddler screams at you to get up and play or climbs into your lap to hug your head. And being able to complete an entire conversation, uninterrupted? An absolute joy. Throw in a good cocktail, pleasant banter, and plentiful jokes, and it’s a heavenly evening.
If you haven’t been to Happy Hour at Alderwood (the one on Pacific Ave, not the other one only a mere couple of blocks away), I recommend it for a few reasons: 1) they make a mezcal cocktail called La Piña which is one of the most delicious and strongest drinks I’ve maybe ever had—if you want to feel like a cheap date go to their happy hour and buy one or two drinks and spend the rest of the evening quite buzzed or, like me, mildly drunk. 2) The burger-and-beer combination is both affordable and delicious, and 3) their hefty steak frites dusted with savory magic fairy dust, served alongside a tiny bowl of half ketchup and half creamy aioli, two opposing half moons, are ultra-satisfying. So satisfying that I had to recreate the dish at home, and here we are.
I know it’s annoying to have to boil the wedges before baking, but may I point out that you saved time by a) not peeling the potatoes and b) cutting them into giant, rough wedges. So take that. But if you really want to skip the boiling step, feel free; simply bake them a little longer (the potatoes won’t be quite as soft but maybe you don’t care—you do you). This recipe will likely make more dust than you need, so save it for next time. Or if you’re feeling really rebellious, skip the dust and just enjoy some crispy, salty potatoes and the knowledge that you are retaining your potato-making autonomy.
Baked Potato Wedges with Savory Dust
4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed clean (you can use any other starchy potato instead)
kosher salt, for the water
4 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
pinch of sweet paprika
¼ cup aioli (homemade or store-bought)
¼ cup ketchup
Set a large pot of water to boil and add plenty of salt, as if you were making pasta (I eyeball this always, but you would be safe throwing a fist full in there). While you wait for the water to boil, slice each potato in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 4-5 large wedges. When the water boils, carefully drop all of the potato wedges into the water and cook at a low boil for about 8 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not so soft they can easily be stabbed with a fork (a sharp knife should be able to just slide in there without it being too easy).
Turn the oven to 425°F.
Gently pour the potatoes and their water into a colander, allowing them to steam dry a bit until warm but not piping hot. On a large rimmed baking sheet, carefully toss the slightly cooled potato wedges with 4 tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp fine sea salt. Spread the wedges out so that none are touching—you want them to brown, not steam.
Bake for 20 minutes, flip each wedge so a new side is facing down (tongs help), and bake for another 20 minutes. If they’re not browned enough, flip them again and bake for another 5-10 minutes.
While the potatoes bake, make the savory dust by mixing together 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion powder, and a pinch of sweet paprika. If any of your dried powders are clumpy, either whiz everything in a spice grinder or pound in a mortar and pestle until smooth. Spread the dust on a small plate and set aside.
Dollop ¼ cup aioli and ¼ cup ketchup evenly (you can do half moons if you’d like) in a small bowl for dipping. Set aside.
When the potatoes are cooked to your liking, remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle them with your bare fingers. Taste and add salt as needed. Then lightly lay each potato wedge in the plate of savory dust, ensuring you get some on each facet of the wedge.
Serve still hot, with the bowl of ketchup and aioli for dipping and swirling.