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Pondering Potatoes

posted Dec 12, 2013, 8:28 AM by Peppy Bristlebrush
By Rosafina Diggle

Gentle readers, while I am not an expert on the subject of *growing* taters, I am here now to share some of my techniques on *cooking* taters. There are many ways to prepare potatoes: baked, roasted, fried, boiled, mashed, whipped, and so on. And I must say, the thing that saddens me most is seeing a fellow cook use the wrong tater for the wrong dish. 

First let's talk about the potato I'm sure you're all very familiar with: the big rough brown ones. Now, these are just fine for pretty much everything, from mashing  to baking, but where these really shine is in the baking. There are two basic methods for this, and you can decide which is more suited to your present tastes and circumstances: 

1. Use a fork to poke little holes all over your tater, then roll it in oil and sprinkle on a bit of salt. This goes in the oven at a moderate temperature--same as what you'd bake a cake at--for about an hour.

2. Just stick that tater in the oven on high or in the coals of a dying fire for an hour. This is for those of us who like our tater skins and like 'em crispy! The inside will be less fluffy, but more creamy.

Now, these big brown taters are also very good for mashing, because they crumbles up so nicely when they get cooked. But if you like your mashed taters chunky, I suggest you mix some big brown taters with those little red taters (you know, with the slightly waxy skin)! The little red ‘uns hold together pretty well, and they are also perfect for “home fries.”

Now, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Yukon Gold potato. Its name is a mystery, but its purpose surely isn't: these are what you want when making a tater gratin (which is a fancy word for "layered potato dish") or when you need to whip up the topping for a Shepherd's Pie. The big brown taters tend to get a bit gummy if you overwork ‘em, and it’s almost impossible not to overwork potatoes if you are whipping them.

And now, I will share the most important potato secret of all (aside from using the right tater for the right dish). It is almost impossible to oversalt a potato. They need lots o’ salt, so if you’re going to be generous with your seasoning, this is the food for you!

((OOC: For those who are interested, the potato’s presence in Middle Earth is a bit of an anachronism, since the potato did not make its way to Europe until around the 17th century (if I remember my food history correctly). It was brought over from Central / South America by the Spanish, and as it is a member of the Nightshade family was for quite some time considered poisonous!))