Potato Polpette.
Credit: Photograph by Cedric Angeles

The one downside to serving family-style instead of plating portions like in a restaurant," says Michael Chiarello, "is you have to worry about Tom from the softball team putting away 12 ribs before anybody else can grab one." That's where a starch like these simple fried potato patties comes in. Picture crab cakes without the crab, a crunchy brown exterior covering melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes. Chiarello recommends using the lid of a wide-mouth canning jar as a mold. You can cook these on a stove-top burner, of course, but the skillet heats up just fine on the grill, minimizing those back-and-forth trips from kitchen to yard and keeping you in the mix at your party.

• 3 lb russet potatoes
• 5 tbsp kosher salt
• 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
• 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
• 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• 2-3 tbsp butter if cooking at the stove
• 1 cup all-purpose flour

Step one
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Peel potatoes, cut into large chunks, put in a large pot, cover with cold water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender (you should be able to pierce them easily with a fork) – about 10 minutes. Drain.

Step two
Transfer potatoes to baking sheet in oven until they've lost most of their moisture (about 5 minutes). Let cool.

Step three
Press through a ricer or colander. Add parsley and mix (don't overwork or it'll get gummy). Shape into eight patties of about a half-cup potato each, or 4 inches in diameter. Set aside.

Step four
Place cast-iron skillet on stove or hottest part of the grill. Let it get hot. Put flour on a plate. Wipe oil around skillet with a paper towel. Roll the polpette in flour to coat, place as many polpette on the skillet as will fit. Cook until brown crust forms (about 4 minutes). Turn and cook until a crust forms.