I happen to make terrific popcorn. Stove-top, in a stockpot with oil, my popcorn is the old-fashioned kind that begs to be toted in a soon-to-be-greasy paper sack to an outdoor showing of a movie, but you’d call it a “picture show” and maybe Paul Newman would be the star. Most of the time, I stick with the classic butter and salt, but add a few generous grinds of black pepper. Occasionally, I do an olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, black pepper version that is quite popular with a few friends and is the inspiration for these oven fries.
These are tasty and easy as a side dish for the protein of your choice. I love them as a go-with to creamed spinach and a simple salad of sliced tomatoes dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (Though I’ve been known to have a plate of these oven fries as a meal unto itself — is that so wrong?)
Recipe: Black Pepper, Parmesan & Sage Oven Fries
2 Russet potatoes, halved crosswise and cut into thin wedges
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 large fresh sage leaf, finely minced
Preheat oven to 375F.
Toss potato wedges with olive oil, a few big pinches of kosher salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes, tossing the potatoes about halfway through the cooking time, until potatoes are cooked through with crispy edges.
Remove the potatoes from the oven. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Sprinkle with Parmesan and finely minced sage. Serve hot. Serves 4 as a side dish.
Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon
These oven fries have a bit of a steakhouse vibe, and they would certainly not be out of place with your favorite cut of beef and a bottle of Cab. And there’s also something about the sage that works for me with Cabernet Sauvignon — perhaps because I sometimes find a sage note in those wines. Here are a few I’ve liked recently, at a broad range of prices:
Beringer 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Private Reserve ($115 at release). Pulled a bottle of this out recently, and yowza. Drinking beautifully now — ah, the pleasures of cellaring wines… My 2011 review from WineSkinny.com: Rich fruit — ripe blackberry, black cherry, intense currant — is plush and approachable, with layers of licorice, sage, nutmeg and oak that add structure and interest, with a long, focused finish. Ready to drink now and over the next 7-8 years. Find it!
Robert Craig 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain ($80). Lovely, rich, just a baby now. With blackberry, boysenberry, currant, white pepper, sage. So tempting now, but should age beautifully for at least a decade. (And I wouldn’t scoff at the idea of two decades!) Find it!
Grgich Hills 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Estate Grown ($60). Rich and layered, with intense blackberry, black cherry and currant fruit, a touch of jammy ripeness. Picks up baking spices, toast, vanilla, and a bit cigar box smokiness through the long finish. Find it!
Freemark Abbey 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($44). I liked the lead pencil/leather notes playing off deeply pretty dark berry fruit. Rich but structured. Find it!
Amici 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($40). Ripe, rich, smooth black fruits — blackberry jam, currant, black cherry — with underlying, depth, grip and evolving spice and tobacco notes. Find it!
St. Supéry 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($30). I really loved the elegance of this wine — with layers of blackberry, currant, sage, espresso, bittersweet chocolate and warm spices. Pretty. Find it!
Rodney Strong 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($28). Very nice, and approachable now. With rich black currant, cassis, mocha, sage and tobacco notes, finishing with some sweet, toasty oak. Find it!
Justin 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles ($26). Manages to be intense and concentrated without being jammy or heavy. Medium-bodied blackberry, black currant, toast, roasted herbs. Nice value for a wine that should age nicely for at least another 5-7 years. Finishes dry. Find it!
Paul Dolan 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino ($25). Elegant and balanced, red cherry, blackberry, dried sage, lightly toasted spice notes, pretty finish. Find it!
Divining Rod 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($19). Polished, pretty, nice value. With classic Cab blackberry and currant flavors laced with aromatic smoky oak, vanilla and sage. Great everyday wine. Find it!
Lander-Jenkins 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon California Spirit Hawk ($15). Shows some balance at this price, with rich black fruits playing off espresso, toast, and spice notes. Find it!
Buried Cane 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Roughout ($14). Great value on this Washington Cab, with balanced, bright cherry fruit and appealing brown spice, smoke and light, toasty vanilla notes. Some structure and complexity, too. Find it!
Alamos 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($13). Pretty darn good for a $13 Cabernet! Medium bodied, with blackberry, currant and touches of slate, brown spice and light herbal notes. Find it!