Recipe: Poor Man’s Cottage Potatoes

Cottage potatoes taste good on their own, or as a a side dish. Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art

Cottage potatoes are like roses — we all use the same name, but no one cottage potato dish is identical to another.

My cottage potatoes are crispy little squares of crunchy on the outside, mmmmm on the inside, especially when you use Yukon Gold potatoes, the prince (or are potatoes female?) of potatoes for its perfect texture, buttery flavor, and thin skin that doesn’t need to be peeled.

And the Poor Man part? Potatoes, onions, garlic — traditionally, these are poor man’s food because they’re easy to find and inexpensive, but they’re also delicious and nutritious. Despite the consistent bad rap potatoes get in the press, they are a filling food that represent the world’s fourth largest crop, behind rice, wheat, and corn. Garlic and onions, both members of the allium family, are high in antioxidants, instrumental in neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals in our system.

If you’re one of those people who say, “I don’t like onions and garlic,” suspend your opinion just this one time, and give this dish a try. The garlic and onions cook to a delightful languor and infuse the dish with their teasing flavor. Fresh rosemary adds the final, gentle kiss.

Makes 2 large servings, 3-4 small side servings.

Poor Man’s Cottage Potatoes


1/4 cup olive oil

Is it just money that makes us rich? I don’t think so. Wild Child — original painting, signed limited edition print at Steve Henderson Fine Art; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

1 head garlic, minced (I know, that’s a lot of garlic. If you’re timid, use half a head.)

2 shallots, chopped (I used these because our Son and Heir planted a row of shallots in the garden for our anniversary, and I wanted to use the present. If you don’t have shallots, use a bit more onion.)

1 medium sized onion, chopped (I used a red onion; definitely makes you cry.)

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, about two mid-sized, finely diced (you can use any kind of potato, but Yukons really are tops; by finely diced I mean quarter-inch squares or so; the larger the dice, the longer the potatoes take to cook.)

2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

1 small tomato, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet until hot. Add the garlic and gently stir for two minutes. Add onions and shallots. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Add the potatoes, increase the heat to a high medium, and, over the next 20 minutes, cook and flip until the potatoes are cooked through and browned on the outside. I found this a great time to catch up on the dirty dishes in the sink, and every few minutes I grabbed the spatula and stirred the potatoes around. If you need more than 20 minutes, take it, but you probably won’t need less. Don’t let more than 4-5 minutes go by without flipping so you don’t burn the onions that are mixed in with the potatoes.

When the potatoes are to your liking, salt and pepper to taste. Add the fresh rosemary and mix it in and through the potatoes for one minute. Take pan off of heat.

Serve onto small plates; sprinkle with chopped tomatoes.


Living Happily on Less is a lifestyle thing, and anyone can succeed at it. Available at and Barnes and Noble.

Poor man’s food is generally good food, because traditionally, many poor men ate what was in season, easy to store, and inexpensive — eggs, cheese, grains, onions, potatoes, greens in the spring. When you learn to eat seasonally, you see your grocery bill go down, and the more you cook for yourself, the more that grocery bill continues to go down.

This is a lifestyle thing, and this is what I talk about in my book, Live Happily on Less. You don’t have to be rich to live well, and if your focus on life is on getting rich, you may make a lot of money, but this still won’t guarantee that you’ll live well. First step: be grateful for what you have. Second step: learn how to use what you have to your best advantage. Third step: buy the book.

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2 Responses

  1. Dear Carolyn,

    I enjoy reading your posts/blogs…and am looking forward to trying this recipe. Your approach of plain truth with common sense and humor mixed in is refreshing. I’m so inspired, I just purchased your book for my kindle!


    Jackie Davidson

    1. Jackie: Thank you for your kind, kind words and for purchasing my book. I needed that encouragement very much, right at the time I read your comment.

      I love being an ordinary person, but the most frustrating part about it all is that — while I have something I burst to say and know that it is a good thing to hear — because I am ordinary, because I do not have the “right” connections, because I am not properly in the system, I have a really, really difficult time being heard. I am so very grateful for real, wonderful people like you who find me, write me, and encourage me. Thank you again, my friend. I wish you many pleasant hours reading the book, with a cup of hot, steaming tea and a contented kitty sitting nearby. — Carolyn

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