When it comes to comfort food and holiday dining, who can forget the potato? Potatoes are willing palettes for whatever seasoning you’d like to throw at them, and they can be subjected to all kinds of heat and manipulation. Mashed, baked, fried, roasted—there are a million ways to prepare potatoes. Who hasn’t dreamed of a steamy baked Idaho or Oregon potato, potatoes redolent of rosemary and garlic, a creamy bowl of potato chowder, or freshly fried potato chips?
For the purist, a simple baked potato is the essence of potato-ness. You’ll want to select russet-style potatoes for baking. If you aim for a true baked potato, merely scrub the skin, dry it off, rub with a bit of oil if you’d like, and bake in a 400-degree oven for about an hour. If you microwave individual russets or wrap them in aluminum while they’re still wet and cook them in the oven, you will get steamed potatoes. They’ll have a great taste but a different texture from that of a baked potato.
Boiled potatoes—the waxy kind, often sold as boiling, white rose, or red rose potatoes—can be tossed with chopped fresh or dried herbs and served hot. Or they can be sliced and oven- or pan-fried with onions.
Boston browned potatoes are boiled; tossed with paprika, salt, and pepper; and oven-browned, while Saratoga potatoes are thick homemade potato chips. Scalloped potatoes are sliced and covered with a white sauce, which you can create with lowfat soy or rice milk, along with flour and vegan margarine as thickeners. Then, the slices are baked until bubbly. And, of course, diced boiled potatoes can be used either for hot dishes, such as soups and casseroles, or for cold dishes, such as tofu and potato salad or bean and potato salad.
Prepare extra boiled potatoes and roast them in a very hot oven, approximately 450 degrees. Depending on their size, you can roast them whole, wedged, or sliced. Remove hot potatoes from the oven, and sprinkle them with a mixture of herbs and spices, such as dried or fresh parsley, basil or oregano, or a combination of chopped garlic, onions, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with vegan margarine and serve hot.
For a more impressive presentation, roast boiled potatoes whole with their skin on. When removed from the oven, cut an ‘x’ into the top and carefully push the soft, hot potato with both hands, as if trying to make your hands meet. (Be careful not to burn your hands!) This movement will force the potato inside to push through the skin, resembling a potato ‘puff.’ Sprinkle with herbs, drizzle with vegan margarine, and serve.
Potato croquettes and potato pancakes can be made from grated, raw potatoes, either the waxy or non-waxy varieties. Simply combine with herbs and either bread crumbs, egg replacer, or soft tofu for binding.
Croquettes are formed into three-dimensional triangles and fried or baked; they go well with an herbed white sauce, tomato vegetable sauce, or mushroom gravy. In contrast, potato pancakes are griddled or baked until they are crispy. Serve your pancakes with applesauce or with horseradish and grilled onions or grated beets.
Mashed potatoes are a menu in themselves. Boil potatoes until tender, drain, peel, mash, and moisten with vegan margarine or with vegetable or mushroom broth. Season mashed potatoes with garlic, horseradish, rosemary, parsley, chopped sautéed veggies, onions, celery, diced mushrooms, black or white pepper, and paprika. Serve mashed potatoes on their own, or shape them into patties and fry or bake them. You can also use mashed potatoes as an ingredient in baking, such as for biscuits or focaccia, for making stuffings, and for thickening up chowders and vegetable soups.
Like mashed potatoes, puréed potatoes are excellent to use as thickeners in soups and sauces. To make puréed potatoes, blend mashed potatoes until smooth, the texture of a thick, smooth sauce. Puréed sweet potatoes can be used to replace some of the fat or liquid in muffin and quick bread recipes.
Anyone can deep-fry potato chips. Try dry-chipping non-starchy white (red rose, white rose, or Yukon Gold) or sweet potatoes in several different ways. The method that takes the least amount of time and equipment and still gives a crisp chip is using a very hot (475 degrees or higher) oven or a desiccator (a drying oven).
For the first method, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. (Preheating to 500 is even better if you can do that without switching over to ‘broil.’) Have baking sheets that are either lined with parchment paper or sprayed lightly with oil available. Wash and thoroughly dry the potatoes before slicing. Leave the peel on or take it off, as you like. Just note that if the peel is on, it will toughen a bit, giving the chip a chewy exterior peel contrasting with crispy interior flesh. Slice as thinly as possible, place them in a single layer (no overlaps) on the baking sheets, and bake until the chips are crisp. This can take 8-15 minutes, depending on how hot and consistent your oven is. If you have a convection (forced air) oven, the ‘chipping’ should go more quickly.
A dessicator will give more of a chewy treat rather than a true chip. If using a desiccator, slice the potato as thinly as possible, place the chips on desiccating trays, and allow the drying to commence. The dessicator method can take from several hours up to a day, depending on your equipment.
For those of you who like to play with fire, thinly slice potatoes, place them on a barbecue tray with narrow slot widths (or make a tray with several strips of foil), and put them on the grill or in a smoker. You’ll have to turn the chips to counter the unevenness of the heat, but you will get a really unique flavor.
No matter which method you choose, remember that thinness is the key. The thinner the slice, the crisper or drier your chips will be. Thick slices will result in a soggy product.
However you prepare your chips, you will need to store them in a dry place in an airtight container. If stored properly, they should retain their crispness for approximately a week. I usually layer them between paper towels or cheesecloth in airtight tins or plastic bags to maintain maximum crispness.
Potato chips can be flavored with dried herbs or spices for a quick holiday appetizer. Fill a paper bag with chips and add some garlic powder, onion powder, and white pepper or chili powder, and shake until the chips are all coated. If you’d like sweet chips, toss sweet potato chips with ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and dry vegan sweetener. Don’t flavor the chips until right before you are ready to serve them.
(Makes 1 cup)
4 Tablespoons dried dill
2 Tablespoons ground dried oregano
4 Tablespoons ground dried sage
1 Tablespoon ground dried thyme
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Combine ingredients until well mixed. Store in an airtight container. Shake to mix before using. Toss hot or cold potato chips with a small amount before serving.
|Total calories per 1-teaspoon serving: 5||Fat: <1 gram|
|Carbohydrates: 1 gram||Protein: <1 gram|
|Sodium: 1 milligram||Fiber: <1 gram|
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