It turns out that my bulk mashing post is one the more popular posts on this here blog. It kind of makes me feel better about myself knowing that there are others out there that cannot resist the bargain bag of ‘taters even when we know darn well that we cannot eat the whole thing before it goes over to the dark side.

But this time it wasn’t my fault – it was totally my Mom’s fault. You see, just after the holidays they pull up stakes and relocate to warmer climes which leaves me as the beneficiary of the “cleaning out of the perishables”. Not that I am complaining, free food – especially a staple – is always welcome in my home. And yet I found myself, once again, staring at the lumpy proliferation of tasty tubers in my pantry.

Which sat in my pantry.

And sat.

Until I said CRAP I gotta do something with those ‘taters. So I did, about a month ago (what you thought I had magic ‘taters that lasted from the end of December until February? – no chance, not with our humidity), but I waited to let y’all know until I had fully tested my plan. Because I don’t want to pass on any crappy advice, I have standards you know?

Like mashed potatoes - only you are supposed to eat a whole bowl.

The Initial Spud Soup Starter

The Hardware: A big honkin’ pot, immersion blender, ladle and quart freezer bags

The Software: A metric butt-tonne of russet potatoes and enough stock to cover, plus whatever spices you like.

Take your ‘taters, peel then chop them into chunks – toss them into your big honkin’ pot. Pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the spuds. If you are a vegetarian type person, I am sure that a vegetable stock would work. Cook the ‘taters until they can be easily poked through with a skewer and turn off heat. Now here is where we get crazy.

Don’t drain them.

Take your handy-dandy immersion blender and puree the tar out of those ‘taters. What you will end up with is something much to runny to be mashed potatoes but much too thick to be actual soup. I call this “soup starter”. You can season at this point – until you like the taste, but be careful with the black pepper. Black pepper intensifies even in the freezer. You can always add more seasoning later – but it is tough to fish it out. I added salt, a little bit of pepper and some garlic powder. Hmmm, I wonder what would have happened if I had cooked some garlic cloves with the ‘taters? Next time maybe.

The important thing here – do not add any dairy. No milk, no butter, no cream cheese, no sour cream, no cheese. These things do not freeze terribly well in a team environment. They like to go their own way, to seperate themselves. Bust out your ladle and fill up as many quart freezer bags as you can manage. Try to get as much air out of them as possible and lay them flat on a tray. Make sure you label & date them and then chuck them into the freezer. Freezing flat makes it easier to store the bags after freezing and makes the food thinner and more widely distributed; therefore easier to thaw.

The Spud Soup

This is why it took a month for me to post this – I wanted to make sure it worked. I had significant concerns about the texture of the soup after the freezing. Luckily I was able to thaw and revive our patient with little quality loss. Score one for Cryogenics!

Pull out a freezer bag of your soup starter and microwave it on very low until you can mush it around enough to decant into a large saucepan. Once the soup is in the saucepan – heat on low, stirring and mushing frequently until everything is thawed (or almost thawed, if you are like me an have no patience it will still work). Thin the soup to slightly thicker than desired consistency with stock (of whichever persuasion floats your boat).

If you are a vegan and used vegetarian stock – well, I cannot help you much beyond this point – it is going to get ugly for you so you might want to stop. The next things you want to add to bring your soup to it’s final luscious consistency are those prima-donnas who eschewed the freezer, milk and butter – the dairy divas. Add as much as you want – I won’t tell.

Season to taste, I like salt and a good bit of pepper, plus some more garlic and a wee bit of nutmeg. You follow your bliss. In the above picture you might notice some lumps – I actually dumped in some frozen corn because really, can you ever have too much starch?

Toppings can be applied with wild abandon. Personally, I cannot conceive of potato soup without bacon and cheese. While we were eating I mentioned to the hubby that some caramelized onions would have been delicious piled on top. If I had had a can of French’s onions handy – I can guarantee you they would have made an appearance.

What do you think would go well on top?

My neighbor is a rather old chap who lives to garden, quite literally. A couple of years ago his wife passed away and now pretty much all he does is tend his land, I think he is in his late 70’s early 80’s. Last year he purchased and restored a classic Tractor from the 40’s and he eagerly awaits the day when I will allow him to haul my toddler up to the seat and drive around with him. I haven’t prevented this but the E-man is very skeptical of the entire plan and you have to admit, a big tractor can be scary. Of course this is a wee Tractor, just big enough for Mr.N’s “garden”.

That is if you can call a cultivated acre of land a “garden”. When I asked him last year how many potato plants he put in he said “Oh about 100 lbs”. That is 100 lbs of seed potatoes. What the yield on that would be I have no idea. This year I have started my own, slightly less ambitious, garden and when I proudly told Mr.N that I had planted peanuts he asked me how many. I told him 5 plants. He grinned at me and let me know that he had planted 3 rows of the goober-pea. Ah well, I am content to be small potatoes.

And small potatoes is what this post is about. Mr.N was kind enough to give me a few of the earliest potatoes that he robbed from his hills. These are very young potatoes, skins as thin as tissue. If you are skilled you can reach in from the side and sneak a few out without disturbing the production of the main crop. I am quite sure that I would bungle the procedure with my sissy hands, but Mr.N’s gnarled mitts are nimble with experience.

I needed to make something that would let these precious yet ugly jewels shine and I was determined that I could make a meal of them. No side-dish billing for these puppies – they were Marquee talent. I perused my trusty The Best Recipes in the World and decided on something based on the Spanish Tortilla concept. I say concept because I played fast and loose with the recipe. Why? might you ask?

Tortilla, open faced Potato Omlette, Fritatta, who cares?

Tortilla, open faced Potato Omelet, Fritatta, who cares?

Bittman’s recipe called for an entire cup of olive oil. Cutting the recipe in 1/2 for the amount of ‘taters I had still left me with a 1/2 cup of olive oil – and I couldn’t do it. Nor did I want to include the onions that were called for. No supporting cast was desired – let them stay at the talent scout’s – I had my star!

Faux Spanish Tortilla

Hardware: really sharp knife, large non-stick skillet that you can chuck into the oven (make sure that it doesn’t have a melty handle because a melty handle sucks), lid of sufficient size to fit the pan

Software:

I am afraid that this isn’t one of those measurement type recipes because I was really flying by the seat of my pants – the show must go on.

4 medium new potatoes
2 eggs
a couple of “glugs” of milk
Salt
Pepper
Nutmeg
Garlic Powder
Olive Oil (less than 1/2 C)
Cheese (I used mozzarella)

Put the skillet on the stove on medium heat and add a goodly amount of olive oil. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oil is heating slice the potatoes super duper thin. I was too lazy to use my mandolin – I hate the clean-up. Separate the slices and dump them into the hot oil. Stir and flip like a madman to get them all coated with oil, adding oil if it seems necessary. Salt and pepper generously, these are potatoes after all.

You do not want the potatoes to brown, but you want them to become tender. I reduced the heat to low and kept flipping/stirring. When it seemed they were fixin to brown I added some water and clapped a lid on so that they would steam. Of course I frequently lifted the lid and stirred/flipped them so who knows how much actual steaming occurred. During on break in the action when you are not compulsively checking the potatoes, crack your eggs into a bowl and add a couple of glugs of milk. Season with salt, pepper, a generous amount of freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of granulated garlic. Beat the tar out of them with a fork.

Check potatoes. When they are moving towards tender take your lid off so that you can evaporate the water. When almost tender and mostly dry (except for the oil) pat the ‘taters out in an even layer and then pour the egg mixture all over them. Kill the heat to the pan and then decide that you cannot leave well enough alone and sprinkle some cheese over the top. Because hey, who doesn’t like cheese on potatoes?

Put the whole mess into the oven and let it bake until the eggs are set, maybe 10 – 15 minutes. I decided that I really wanted my cheese to be more than just melted so I cranked up the broiler for a couple of minutes and literally stood there and watched it go GB&D. Please, please, please remember that the handle of the pan will be WHITE HOT and use an appropriate protective device to remove it to a safe landing zone.

The Verdict

‘tateriffic! By dialing back on the eggs and making this dish more about the potatoes I really feel like my special produce was able to be all it could be. I had to serve up 1/2 of it to myself and put the rest in the ‘fridge right away – otherwise I would have eaten it all without a second thought. The E-man even deigned to snitch a few chunks of potato off of my plate which is made out of win. Reheated in the same oven I cooked tonight’s uneaten fish sticks (well, they were eaten eventually by me) in it still was very tasty. It wasn’t quite as good as it was fresh out of the oven – but it was better than the fish sticks.

A post, a post! A post that is actually on topic! Making your own convenience foods, one easy place to start is with the humble potato. I love potatoes, in most any form I love potatoes. When your grocery runs a special, 10 lbs of potatoes for $3.50 and you are only feeding 2 – 3 people it is hard to take advantage of the bargain. Because a bargain isn’t exactly a bargain if it rots in your pantry. And that is what my 10 lb bag of potatoes was thinking about doing.

When you realize something is on the brink of going to the dark side what do you do? You do something with it! Don’t let it go to waste.

Having used 5 or 6 of the potatoes in the hulking bag of tubers I was faced with the need to Do Something with them before they went all Darth Vader on me. I was heating up the oven to make dinner, so I went through the bag and picked out the most pleasingly formed of the bunch. Your classic “baking potato” shape that is so happy sitting beside a steak. Wash, dry, assault with fork, rub with oil and sprinkle with salt – chuck directly onto the oven rack at about 375 until done (about 45 minutes).

While the bakers were baking I washed, dried and mostly peeled the rest of the bag. Cut into chunks and tossed into a large pot with enough water to cover I boiled them for about 20 minutes – until tender. Drain and return to the hot pot to allow some of the water to steam off (low flame can help if you need it).

I left those hanging out and removed the bakers from the oven. Then I went and watched Cars for the 2,345,24354,374th time with the Eman. Once he was down for the count I started the serious cooking. Cut the bakers in half longways and scooped out the flesh, careful to not pierce the skin and leave enough of a shell of ‘tater so they could stand up on their own. The ‘tater innards joined the boiled ‘taters in a large bowl (actually the bowl of my Kitchen Aide mixer) so that they could fulfill their special purpose.

******’tater fest 2009******

Is there a more comforting food?

Is there a more comforting food?

I have never mashed quite this volume of ‘taters before, but  it pretty much works the same way as always. Scald some milk, melt a stick of butter, salt & pepper to your heart’s content. Mix, mix, mix, using your spoon to redeposit the escapees (because my mixer was just that full). Once you have achieved mashed ‘tater Nirvana then you are ready to proceed.

I removed what I felt would be enough mash to refill the baker shells and then added some cheese, green onions and garlic powder to the mix. Spoon the mixture back into the shells, filling only to the top the first time around; and then topping off with the remaining mixture so that they are overflowing.

Here is where the amazing part comes. Place all of the filled baker shells on a sheet pan and deposit in your freezer. Allow them to freeze overnight and then wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Put them all in a freezer bag and you have your own – home made – frozen twice baked potatoes. When you are making a meal pull however many you want out of the freezer and put them directly into the oven (on a pan) with whatever else you are cooking. Cook until they are hot all the way through and browning on the top. I baked 7 potatoes so now I have 14 twice baked potatoes in the freezer.

The remaining mashed ‘taters? Those can be frozen also. I use quart freezer bags and fill them with what I consider a “family sized” portion, partially zip the lock and squeeze as much air out as you can. Once your bag is sealed lay it down on it’s side and squish the ‘taters out until you have a flattened layer around 1/2 inch thick. When you freeze flat like this it is much quicker to thaw whatever it is you are freezing, and you have the added bonus that you can stack things in your freezer. Or file them like they are in a hanging file. You can either thaw them in a simmering bath “boil in bag” style or cut the bag off and nuke their little spuds hot. I tend to nuke at 50% power, a few minutes at a time, stirring a couple of times in the process.

I ended up with 3 quart bags with a “family sized” portion in each. So, 14 2x baked potatoes and 3 meals worth of mashed potatoes all stashed in the freezer. And how much did it cost me? If you add in the butter, milk, cheese and green onions it might total $5.00.

$5.00

Isn’t that kind of savings worth a couple of hours in the kitchen? Don’t forget to add in the time you will save when preparing future meals featuring these ‘taters, you’ve got side-dishes for at least 6 meals for a family of 4, more if you are like me and only feeding 2.

There is a high degree of probability that the term Golden Brown and Delicious was coined to describe perfectly Roasted Potatoes, and despite how humble they are you must give them props.

Ooooh yeah. Who needs french fries?

Ooooh yeah. Who needs french fries?

I have developed this recipe from a source recipe found in one of my favorite JLC* and I intend to cook from this tome many more times. “A Southern Lady Cooks With a Greek Accent” is an excellent mix of homey anecdotes and delicious recipes. Usually with my JLC I am happy if I can find one recipe that looks good enough upon read-through, and if it turns out then I am ecstatic. I currently have 4 additional corners dog-eared in Mrs. Sophia Clikas’s cook book and I cannot wait to try them.

* JLC = Junior League Cookbook. A catch-all term that I use to describe the now ubiquitous, self published cookbooks put out by organizations. I have been collecting them for years and have some doozies. Initially local Junior Leagues were the only groups that put them out – then Churches got in on the act. Now anybody and their Mother can publish one, and not all of them are good. Hallmarks of a JLC include a spiral bound format and names like Mrs. Earl Plotzkiss after each recipe as  means of attribution.

How I have digressed!

Roasted Potatoes

The Hardware:

Glass Casserole dish of sufficient size to hold potatoes with space around each chunk, Spatula

The Software:

2 T Canola Oil
1 T Olive Oil
1 1/2 t Salt
1/3 t Paprika
Fresh Nutmeg and Pepper to taste, be generous
3 Medium Russet Potatoes or combination of potatoes you like to equal
(My Potato to conversion chart says 1 Med Russet = 3 small Yukon, I like more Russet)

Set oven to 400 degrees. In your casserole combine oils and spices, place in oven while it is pre-heating.

Wash potatoes and cut into good sized chunks – somewhere between 1/2 and 1 inch squariods. The small Yukons I halved and then quartered each half – then I cut the Russets to match. When the oven has reached 400 degrees, remove the casserole and add the potatoes. Toss around liberally with the spatula, turning to ensure that all sides are coated in tasty, tasty goodness. Spread out into a single layer with as much space betwixt the chunks as possible.

Roast for 15 minutes and then use spatula to rearrange the potatoes. You will probably have to scrape some of them off of the bottom. If the layer that was in contact with the casserole sticks just scrape it off too. Those thin little layers of potato get all crispy and yummy and … well it is almost indecent. Return to oven for another 15 minutes then repeat the drill. Return for a final 15 minutes.

If at the end of 45 minutes you have not achieved GBD and a decent amount of crispiness then you might need to put them in for a scooch longer. Mind you, a scooch is a very precise measurement.

We didn’t just eat potatoes for dinner, but that will be a different post, maybe. Becuse it was tasty, but not real pretty.