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The Mediterranean nation of Greece is renowned for both its philosophical and culinary fetes. Though many of the country's gastronomical offerings date back several thousand years, Greek potatoes are a fairly infantile development, since the tubers were not introduced to the country from the New World until the 18th century. After that, the recipe took hold as a straightforward combination of fried and seasoned potato wedges made tart with lemon juice.
It was Count Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first leader of an independent modern Greece, who introduced potatoes to the Greek populous in the early 19th century. The vegetables were a staple in South America, where his country and many other European countries were exploring for future conquest. Kapodistrias rightly believed potatoes could help end hunger in his burgeoning country — and he was correct. In 2011, the tuber is grown throughout the region as a common staple of many daily diets.
Also known as patates lemonates or "lemon potatoes," Greek potatoes are a native take on a basic recipe. The dish does not take much effort to prepare. The first step is to cut the potatoes into small, thin wedges as the oven is preheating to about 425°F (218°C). Some chefs boil the wedges for about five minutes in water, then blanch them in a bowl of ice water before the baking begins; others just dress them with vinaigrette and let the oven do all the work.
It is the dressing that turns Greek potatoes into a distinctive native treat. A combination of lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, shallots or onions, salt, pepper, parsley and oregano is tossed through the potato wedges before the roasting begins. Some like celebrity chef Bobby Flay, also add chicken stock to the bottom of the pan before cooking, which is a method to prevent sticking and impart extra flavor.
It takes about 45 minutes in the oven for Greek potatoes to take on their characteristic browned appearance. Left alone, however, only some of the potatoes will be sufficiently browned. For this reason, many chefs toss the potatoes about halfway through baking them to double the areas exposed to dry heat.
Extra vinaigrette is tossed through the Greek potatoes before serving, along with some fresh uncooked parsley. A cold variation is called patatosalata or "potato salad." This involves peeled potato chunks that are merely boiled until tender, then tossed with the lemon juice, garlic, onions, oil and seasonings.