Vegan Cooking Tips
Mashed and Stuffed Potatoes
By Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE
Rule number one for making mashed or stuffed potatoes is to select baking potatoes, such as Russets, Idahos, or Oregon-type potatoes. If you can, store the unwashed potatoes in a cool, dark cupboard, pantry, or drawer. Colder temperatures allow the potatoes to convert a lot of their sugar to starch. Believe it or not, even a white potato tastes better when some of its sugar develops.
When you're ready to start cooking, wash and scrub your potatoes under cold, running water. Get them really clean so you can eat the skin. (Much of a fruit or vegetable's nutrient content is close to its peel, so the more peel you can leave on, the better.) Don't soak your potatoes; that will make them soggy and remove some of their nutrients. Also, don't use hot water. It will start cooking the outside of the potato, but the inside won't catch up.
BAKING THE POTATOES
Before you mash or stuff your potatoes, you'll need to bake them. It is easy to make a great baked potato. You'll want the baking temperature to be very hot, approximately 400 degrees for a standard oven. Allow washed potatoes to dry, prick in several places, place on an ungreased baking sheet, and allow the potatoes to bake until a fork can poke a hole easily in the center. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your oven and the size of the potatoes. Once your potatoes are baked, allow them to cool only until you can safely handle them. Cut the baked potatoes in half lengthwise, scraping the flesh into a heat-proof bowl. If you intend to serve stuffed potatoes, make sure you save the skins.
FLAVORING THE POTATOES
OK, you are now ready to mash, and maybe stuff, your potatoes. If your freshly baked potatoes are dry, you can add small amounts of heated soymilk or heated broth. Try mushroom broth since it works really well! For creaminess, mix in some vegan sour cream or silken soft tofu. This is the base for your potato. For flavorings, consider adding minced fresh onions or fresh garlic, finely minced (almost puréed) celery, prepared horseradish (usually sold in a jar in the refrigerated section at the supermarket), or finely chopped fresh chilies. For seasonings, use your favorite seasoning blend or a small amount of ground white pepper (which can pack some heat!), dried parsley or rosemary, red pepper flakes, or nutritional yeast. If you'd like some 'add-ins,' think about tossing in minced fresh mushrooms, finely minced vegan sausage or Tofurky™, minced broccoli or cauliflower florets, or minced black or green olives.
MASHING AND STUFFING
Stir, mix, and mash the flesh from your baked potatoes until the flavors are mixed in and you have the consistency that you'd like. If you are serving mashed potatoes, place the amount you're going to serve into a microwaveable container to reheat, or reheat on the stovetop, stirring to prevent burning. To make stuffed potatoes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place your saved potato skins on an ungreased baking sheet. Fill each skin with flavored mashed potatoes and bake just until hot. To add flavor to your potato skins, rub them with the cut side of a fresh garlic clove or onion, or rub on a bit of soy sauce. You can also use seasoned vegetable oil you've made yourself. Sprinkle oil with your favorite dry herb, such as black pepper, onion flakes, or ground sage, and lightly rub into the potato skin. Adding these flavors can be done before or after baking the potatoes. After the potatoes are baked, you can garnish them with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped fresh bell peppers, shredded vegan cheese, chopped pecans or walnuts, or a mixture of several items.