College Kitchen: Spuds

Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew. Or just fry ‘em into hash browns and call it a day.

Samuel Linder

Everyone but Gollum has been around potatoes at least once in their life, though the individual results of this encounter may vary drastically.

 

For some of us, spuds mean McDonaldâÄôs drunk-munch and Ruffles, others piles of mashed and cartons of salad and still others pomme frites and samosas. ItâÄôs likely that your experience is somewhere in the middle of this totally arbitrary binary (trinary?), but the underlying point remains: despite their new-world origins, potatoes, in all of their cheap and abundant starch-filled glory, have taken over the world of food.

Heck, potatoes may well be the most controversial food of all time (sorry foie gras, but no one I knew complained when they tried to change your name to âÄúFreedom LiverâÄù). Forced potato production decimated the Irish and led them across the Atlantic. French fries and potato chips were catalysts for the crusade against junk food. Even former Vice President Dan Quayle joined the fracas when he tried to inform a New Jersey sixth grade spelling bee contestant that he had forgotten the âÄúeâÄù in potato.

The College Kitchen chef does not fear controversy, however (did you SEE the Holiday Dessert issue?), and as such we bring to you a guide to the basics (and not-so-basics) of tater cookery.

Hash Browns

Ingredients

3 medium potatoes

3 tablespoons oil

Salt

Pepper

Instructions

Wash and scrub the spuds; peel if desired. Shred potatoes on largest grain of a shredder. Dump shreds into a colander and squeeze out as much water as possible (lacking a sufficient colander, press potatoes with a towel or paper towel until as dry as possible). The drier your spuds, the crispier your browns. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; mix in. Heat oil in a skillet until shimmery and loosely running, then spread the spuds on in a thin layer. Pull up the edges to check for golden crispiness. Once appropriately fried, flip with a spatula, and cook until both sides are crunchy perfection.

Variations

 

If you like a little more meat to your taters, then try these simple fried slices: Slice the spuds into thin (1/4 inch) rounds, and when the oil is hot, pack them into a single (or even double, if you donâÄôt mind a little less crisp) layer and cover the skillet. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are soft and break apart easily with a fork. Remove the cover, flip the mass upside down and cook until both sides are appropriately browned. This basic recipe will work (with slightly different cook times) for nearly any shape of cut, from thin fries to thick rounds. Better than McDonaldâÄôs, and ever-so-slightly better for you

Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

5-6 medium potatoes

1/4 cup butter (half a stick)

1/3 cup of milk

Salt

Pepper

 Instructions

 

Wash and scrub the spuds; peel if desired. Fill a big pot with water and boil the potatoes until easily poked through with a fork (soft and giving). Before theyâÄôre done, melt the butter in with the milk in a microwave or on the stove (heat only until the butter is melted). Warm milk is the key to avoiding gummy spuds. Drain the water from the potatoes and begin to mash, mixing the butter âÄònâÄô milk in slowly as you go. When the taters are light, fluffy and delicious, add salt and pepper to taste, then serve!

 Variations

Substitute olive oil for the butter if you like (no need to melt with the milk, duh), and then add basil, oregano and a little lemon juice for a Mediterranean flavor. Roasted red pepper is great in mashed potatoes, as is roasted garlic (as many as 7-8 cloves), roasted in a hot oven until brown and mashed in with the butter, which will add a wonderful flavor. Substitute sour cream for the butter; then add chives, green onions or even cilantro for a fresh alternative. One cool alternative to traditional mashed potatoes is an Indian variation called Sookha Aloo. While the potatoes are boiling, heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a pan. Toss in a tablespoon of minced ginger and 2 cloves minced garlic, and cook for a couple of minutes until soft and fragrant. Then add in a mixture of 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 pinch paprika, 1 pinch cardamom, salt to taste, 1 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, cooking for a couple of minutes. When the potatoes are soft, simply mash them thoroughly into the oil/spice mixture and serve. They will be crumblier than a standard mash, but ultra delicious.

 Texas Style Potato Salad

No mayo, just right

Ingredients

8 potatoes

1 large onion

Juice from a jar of dill pickles

1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette

1/3 cup barbeque sauce

Salt

Pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon celery seed

Instructions

Mince the onions as finely as possible, and put into a bowl with enough pickle juice to cover entirely. Leave it covered (for the sake of everything good in this world) in the fridge overnight to marinade. Wash and scrub the spuds; peel if desired. Boil until mostly soft, then turn out into a bowl and smash lightly (you want big chunks). Mix in the celery seed, salt and pepper to taste. Dump in the marinated onions and mix in. Finally, mix in the vinaigrette and barbeque sauce, then serve.

Variations

None. This stuff is off the hook and pretty much all you will ever need. Enjoy!