One of the worst secrets young John Welles will keep reaches its peak by late 1928. Only John isn’t aware of it yet. The secret involves one of his best friends, Claude Willoughby, and the ruthless gangster by whom he is employed, Leo Jenkins.
Leo goes out of his way to make sure Claude suffers at every turn. He does so as a means of getting back at Claude’s father, the true object of Jenkin’s scorn. Bad business dealings put Claude’s father, J.D., at odds with Jenkins, but instead of bearing the brunt of the gangster’s wrath, J.D. offers up Claude as compensation by suggesting his son work for the man. Claude’s loathing of Leo cannot be suppressed during one of their encounters as the gangster eats a meal of sausage and potatoes, and it costs him dearly.
When I wrote the scene, I pictured kielbasa-style sausage and fried potatoes. I don’t have the kitchen equipment required to make sausage, but I’m sure there are many delicious recipes on the Internet. Also, you could consider kielbasa from a local butcher or even a well-known brand. Sliced fried potatoes are easy and delicious, and they complement the sausage. Add some grainy brown mustard, and you have a meal fit for a man as coarse as Leo Jenkins.
Russet potatoes (about 3 inches long)
Peanut oil (Whoever made the potatoes for Leo Jenkins probably would have used lard or butter, but I’m suggesting peanut oil because I love the way it crisps whatever you fry in it.)
I recommend about three potatoes per person. Scrub the potato skins under water with a soft brush to remove excess dirt and eyes. Place the potatoes in a large pot and fill with enough cold water to cover your quantity of potatoes. Bring the water to a boil. Time the potatoes for five minutes and test for doneness with a sharp knife. You should be able to pierce them without resistance, but do not cook them to a soft or mushy state. Boil for another five minutes only if necessary.
Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool on a cutting board. After cooling, you can refrigerate them for use within two days or you can slice them to fry immediately.
Heat the peanut oil in a cast iron skillet over a medium-high to high heat. The surface will ripple and the oil pop. Drop in one potato to test. If the oil sizzles, it’s ready. Place the sliced potatoes in one layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown. You will need to cover them while they cook. Flip and repeat on the other side.
Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined platter. Keep the platter in a warmed oven as you cook. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Season the potatoes with salt in between the layers. Serve hot with the kielbasa and brown mustard.