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Q&A -- The Potato Primer


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#1 eGCI Team

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 10:50 PM

Post your questions for The Potato Primer here.

#2 jackal10

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 02:29 AM

I'd like to thank the editorial team, and especially gsquared for their contributions.

This unit was tough to do, partly because there was so much content, and even then we probably have as much again that we left for next time, and partly because I am trying to follow the Atkins diet and loose weight, so I couldn't eat any of the food, and was not that motivated to cook carbs. Fortunately gsquared and the team pitched an and did some of the photos (spot which ones).

Thanks people!

#3 Jonathan Day

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 03:18 AM

Jack, I don't think I've seen anything like this in any cookery course or cookbook, anywhere. Simply astonishing in detail and richness, but also far more concise than I might have expected given all that content.

I do have a question about pommes Anna. I was taught a fairly classical approach to this dish, including a recommendation to use a special copper casserole or cocotte dedicated only to making pommes Anna (click here for a picture). The top fits over the bottom, allowing the potatoes to remain soft in the centre while browning on both top and bottom and compressing the potato layers.

I don't have one of these casseroles but I have used one for pommes Anna, and the first attempt didn't work all that well because the potatoes stuck everywhere and had to be painstakingly reassembled on the plate. On the second try, I drowned the thing in butter; this time it emerged from the casserole intact and tasted delicious, but seemed a lot of trouble. I now make them in a very well seasoned cast-iron pan, with a weighted lid, lined with cooking parchment, on top.

Is there a new and better way to make pommes Anna, using silpats or cooking the layers outside of a casserole?
Jonathan Day
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#4 jackal10

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 04:53 AM

Thanks I guess the conciseness is influenced by the style of La Repertoire...

What you describe is indeed the classic Pommes Anna. To quote Escoffier
"Set the roundels [of potato] in circles on the bottom of a mould proper to this potato preparation, or in a well buttered thick saucepan...let the lay of each circle be reversed...make 5 or 6 layers in this way...cover the utensil and cook in a good oven for 30 minutes...turn out to drain the butter.."

I think of them as almost like individual Gratin de Pommes de Terre a la Dauphinoise, and maybe 1/2 inch thick.

However there is a more modern version, sometimes called Pommes Maxim, which is thinner, more like a galette, and cooked on a silpat or baking parchment sheet. These are usually only 2 or 3 rounds thick with the roundels first tossed in melted butter and then laid in circles on the sheet. I guess its a nomenclenture confusion as to the gradations between them - when does Dauphinois become Anna become Maxim?

Edited by jackal10, 20 November 2003 - 05:38 AM.


#5 Varmint

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 06:17 AM

Super. Outstanding. Amazing. Wow. And these are just what I'm thinking -- I can't imagine what my oldest son - the potato freak -- will say when he looks at this after school. This is an amazingly comprehensive study, Jack, and I'm truly sorry you didn't partake of any of this food. Thanks from all of us.
Dean McCord
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#6 Monica Bhide

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 07:19 AM

JAck -- you really are amazing. I had seen this in production -- even then this has really humbled me. Excellent work
Monica Bhide

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#7 jackal10

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 07:42 AM

Thanks, but it is not that good...most of this stuff is in easily acccessible books or online.

A major omission are all those wonderful Indian potato (alloo) dishes. I'm sure there are other ethnic potato dishes - this unit is very classical French oriented.

US varieties are only covered sketchily. It would seem from this distance that the bulk potato producers in the US cover only a few varieties, with the rest available perhaps in specialist shops or farmers markets. In the UK the potato marketing board, and the major suoermarkets a few years ago stated pushing the idea of different varieties being better for different purposes, and offering more varieties.

One thing I'm still puzled about: Why are there two different sorts of hash brown? Is it geographical and which is correct?

I'd appreciate reports of how the recipes cook. Are they too sketchy? Any other major omissions, or errors?

Edited by jackal10, 20 November 2003 - 07:46 AM.


#8 iain

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 08:33 AM

I'm likely to set off some sort of deluge here, but I have always operated under the impression that hash browns are made with shredded potatoes while home fries are made with cubed.

#9 iain

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 08:39 AM

This lesson, by the way, is excellent. I wish that I had it available last night, when I made mashed potatoes for maybe the second time of my life. I absolutely love potatoes in all their forms, but have a life-long (and unexplainable) aversion to mashed. I am working on overcoming that aversion now.

The mashed potatoes I made last night used french fingerling and turned out rather dry, even though I used about 6 tablespoons of cream to 2 pounds of potatoes. Following advice given in The Joy of Cooking, I dried the potatoes over low heat after boiling. Think I would have been better off leaving them a little wetter before mashing?


edited to fix bad italic tag

Edited by iain, 20 November 2003 - 08:48 AM.


#10 jackal10

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 08:40 AM

I'm likely to set off some sort of deluge here, but I have always operated under the impression that hash browns are made with shredded potatoes while home fries are made with cubed.

Not according to Beard, Fanny Farmer, Julia Child et al For example http://starchefs.com...ild_recipe.html

Fanny Farmer adds fried salt pork cubes, and this may be the link to other sorts of hashes, like corn beef hash.

Maybe the shredded sort are more modern recipes.

Home fries are bigger cubes, and not mashed together into a cake (I think).

Edited by jackal10, 20 November 2003 - 08:43 AM.


#11 jackal10

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 08:50 AM

The mashed potatoes I made last night used french fingerling and turned out rather dry, even though I used about 6 tablespoons of cream to 2 pounds of potatoes. Following advice given in [I]The Joy of Cooking[/], I dried the potatoes over low heat after boiling. Think I would have been better off leaving them a little wetter before mashing?

Fingerling potatoes are very waxy, so don't mash that well. They will always be a bit dry.
I doubt if drying them out has that much effect. You can add cream or milk until the consistency is right.
How much butter did you add? It is the butter that changes the mouth feel... I think you would need at least 4oz and maybe 8oz.

#12 guajolote

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 08:55 AM

I'm likely to set off some sort of deluge here, but I have always operated under the impression that hash browns are made with shredded potatoes while home fries are made with cubed.

Not according to Beard, Fanny Farmer, Julia Child et al For example http://starchefs.com...ild_recipe.html

i agree with iain, despite what julia says.

hash browns = shredded


#13 bushey

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 09:01 AM

A great way to prepare fingerling potatoes is to steam them a bit first, until they're just tender. Then place in a roasting pan and flatten slightly with a potato masher. Some of the potatoes may get completely smooshed, but that's okay*. Dot with lots of duck fat and roast at about 375-400 for thirty minutes or so. Season to taste with salt and pepper.



*the smooshed bits get really crispy and delicious.

#14 jackal10

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 09:04 AM

A great way to prepare fingerling potatoes is to steam them a bit first, until they're just tender. Then place in a roasting pan and flatten slightly with a potato masher. Some of the potatoes may get completely smooshed, but that's okay*. Dot with lots of duck fat and roast at about 375-400 for thirty minutes or so. Season to taste with salt and pepper.



*the smooshed bits get really crispy and delicious.

Yup. Picture in the unit, under "crushed potatoes" but with
Butter not duck fat, and a sprinkiling of parsley. I imagine they would be even better with duck or goose fat.

#15 Jensen

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 09:27 AM

There has been a potato question plaguing me for years. I've looked for the answer to no avail; I've even sent a query about it to the Potato People (or whatever the potato organisation is called :blink: ).

Sometimes, I will get a potato that refuses to cook. It can be baked for hours or boiled for hours and it's still as hard as rock.

I did read an explanation for this at one point in time but, as my brain apparently became overly full of mostly useless knowledge, it has somehow fallen out.

Does anyone know why this happens?

#16 iain

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 11:12 AM

The mashed potatoes I made last night used french fingerling and turned out rather dry, even though I used about 6 tablespoons of cream to 2 pounds of potatoes. Following advice given in The Joy of Cooking, I dried the potatoes over low heat after boiling. Think I would have been better off leaving them a little wetter before mashing?

Fingerling potatoes are very waxy, so don't mash that well. They will always be a bit dry.
I doubt if drying them out has that much effect. You can add cream or milk until the consistency is right.
How much butter did you add? It is the butter that changes the mouth feel... I think you would need at least 4oz and maybe 8oz.

I only used about 2 oz...more butter probably would have done the trick. I went with more cream, which improved things, but not enough for me. Next time, I'll use much more butter (like I really need an excuse to use more butter on anything).

edited because there were too many instances of the word "probably" in the original post

Edited by iain, 20 November 2003 - 11:14 AM.


#17 Jonathan Day

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 11:29 AM

Richard Olney, the writer on French cookery, insisted that mashed potatoes be passed through a sieve once and moistened with butter and the water they were cooked in. The resulting puree can be slighty greysish but is very tasty.

Some time ago I was rushing to get dinner on the table. I had a lot of "Roseval" potatoes -- reddish skins, waxy -- which I boiled, threw into a Kenwood mixer and whipped at high speed for a good long time, adding a fair bit of butter in the process. I know that this is supposed to turn them into glue, but for some reason it didn't -- they came out light, snowy-white (even though the potatoes had yellowish flesh) and good. No idea why.

Edited by Jonathan Day, 20 November 2003 - 01:25 PM.

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#18 sherribabee

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 01:00 PM

I'm so excited about all this potato info., I hardly know what to do with myself. I just printed out the primer and it will go into a notebook which will become one of my most used, I'm sure.

I *heart* potatoes. I actually made fries for the very first time last night (double fried them in corn oil (the folks in Burger Club will know why, that's how they made them at Tavern on Jane)), and they were delicious.

Thak you so much, Jack, for all the effort you've put into this.
Sherri A. Jackson

#19 alacarte

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 02:15 PM

This segment made me so hungry!!

I especially love the chip sandwich. I didn't know that was permissible. So glad I was wrong.

I'd love to hear Holly Moore's assessment of Jack's technique on frying chips. Or Jack, your assessment of the Moore version of Americanized french fries. (

Since Holly included french fries as part of his ultimate Diner Cooking segment, this could become an interesting debate....)

#20 fifi

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 02:37 PM

uuuuhhh... WOW! Don't be so humble, Jack. Yes, all of this stuff is available. The WOW-factor is how all of this was assembled.

This made me so hungry that there is a single serving LeCreuset individual gratin pan in the DeLonghi even as I type. I just happened to have a potato that needed using and an end of gruyere.

I made a corn chowder one time and thought that little cubes of purple potato would look cute in there. Nope. The color bled out and the whole thing turned blue, probably due to the fairly alkaline pH of the chowder. I should have known better. But then, I repeated the same mistake with maroon carrots in chicken and dumplings.

Why is there is something deeply disturbing about blue food. :laugh:
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

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#21 tryska

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 03:14 PM

ummm.


yum.

and thank you.


i shall be doing your mash technique for thanksgiving this year.

#22 jackal10

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 03:15 PM

Since Holly included french fries as part of his ultimate Diner Cooking segment, this could become an interesting debate....)

Chip butties have a long an honourable tradition, although they are being replaced by vindaloo or chicken tikka as the food of choice after an evening of beer

I think Holly and I agree pretty well on French Fries. I par-cook in water then oil, he in oil, but it much the same thing.I don't pre-soak, since I'm cooking in water. We both chill before finish frying. I think this is the key, since it dries out the surface. We both cook to a good mahogony brown, rather than straw.

#23 jackal10

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 03:20 PM

Blue seems to be one of natures ways of saying "don't eat".
Very few foods are naturally blue - maybe blueberries - but most are purple rather than blue. Blue is used for wound plasters in kitchens and the food processing industry, so you can spot them if they chance to fall off into the food.

Most blue food colours are indicators - red cabbage, for example and turn red with acid.

Blue potatoes bleed in water, so dry cooking methods - microwave, or fry work better. The colour is also not very temperature stable.

#24 elyse

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 04:54 PM

I have question on sweet potatoes. I just bought some to make sweet potato pies, but they're really big. Is the flavor more intense the smaller they are? These are about the size of a pint and a half, if that makes any sense.

#25 fifi

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 04:58 PM

Blue potatoes bleed in water


One would think that someone like me with as many semesters of chemistry, biochemistry, etc. under their skull would realize this. Then to do it twice! I think I will blame it on the merlot. :laugh:

Most blue food colours are indicators - red cabbage, for example and turn red with acid.


When the kids were younger, this was a fun thing to do. I had them dropping all kinds of stuff on minced red cabbage to see which way it would turn.

I was in some fancy restaurant a couple of years ago and they had blue mashed potatoes. :blink: Blue corn may be all the rage, but it kinda bothers me, too. Especially if it is made into polenta.
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#26 elyse

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 05:38 PM

I have question on sweet potatoes. I just bought some to make sweet potato pies, but they're really big. Is the flavor more intense the smaller they are? These are about the size of a pint and a half, if that makes any sense.

I just answered my own question.

#27 BJL

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 10:03 AM

I am intrigued by the mashed potatoe instructions in the primer and would love to try it out. However, I absolutely must make the potatoes ahead of time - will this work? The recipe I clipped originally said I could make them ahead of time and reheat in the oven, so I am thinking to use the boiling method from the primer and then follow the recipe the rest of the way? Any input on how this will work or how I need to adjust things to make it work. (i.e. add more liquid)

My entire family is coming to stay with me in NYC for the holiday for the first time and with a 65+ hour work week I am overwhelmed. Thanks all for your input.

#28 jackal10

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Posted 22 November 2003 - 12:45 AM

I am intrigued by the mashed potatoe instructions in the primer and would love to try it out. However, I absolutely must make the potatoes ahead of time - will this work? The recipe I clipped originally said I could make them ahead of time and reheat in the oven, so I am thinking to use the boiling method from the primer and then follow the recipe the rest of the way? Any input on how this will work or how I need to adjust things to make it work. (i.e. add more liquid)

My entire family is coming to stay with me in NYC for the holiday for the first time and with a 65+ hour work week I am overwhelmed. Thanks all for your input.

The beauty of this mathod is that you can absolutely make them ahead of time, let them go cold and reheat without fear of off-tastes or glue.
Lots of ways to reheat, but you need to guard against the surface drying, so butter it. A microwave is probably the quickest and simplest, otherwise steam, or stir in a pan on the stove over low heat with some extra milk, or in a covered dish in the oven, and stir before serving...

#29 misgabi

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Posted 22 November 2003 - 01:25 AM

mmmmmmmmm chip butties - an absolute must here is Australia as a hangover cure (with a can of coke!!). Bread must be absolutely fresh and the chips your own to work properly but well worth the effort. A "proper" chip buttie should be eaten over the sink to catch the butter and sauce drips.

Thank you jackal10 for this amazing primer. I make the latkes for dinner last night and, as per you suggestion, left out my usual egg and flour. I must say it improved the taste/texture/experience for me. Please feel free to do any other primer you see fit - you are now my new "guru".

Would you consider one on "traditional" english fare - yorkshire pudding, toad-in-the-hole, treacle tart, spotted dick etc. I have recipes from my grandmother but am loath to try as her batting average is fairly low (enthusiastic but bad - think she wrote her mother's english recipes down "slightly" wrong). Love your work and desparately want your garden (not possible in our hemisphere).

Again, thank you. :biggrin:

Edited by misgabi, 22 November 2003 - 01:25 AM.


#30 jackal10

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Posted 22 November 2003 - 02:17 AM

Would you consider one on "traditional" english fare - yorkshire pudding, toad-in-the-hole, treacle tart, spotted dick etc.

I'll put it on the list for next year...