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JAZ

Potato mystery

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Several times recently when I've cooked Yukon gold potatoes, something odd has happened. In all three cases, the potatoes were peeled and sliced fairly thin -- about 1/4 inch -- then cooked in liquid. In all cases, I tested a potato slice to make sure they were done and then used the potatoes in dishes that were cooked further. But in every dish, there was at least one potato slice that was hard and seemingly way undercooked, although all the rest were fine. Two of the dishes called for boiling the slices in water (unsalted) and one was a gratin where I cooked the potato slices in seasoned cream.

 

The first time it happened I just thought it was a fluke, but after three times, I'm wondering if it's the potatoes (purchased from two different stores) or something I'm doing wrong. Has this every happened to anyone else, or does anyone have an idea why it's happening?


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
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jzimmerman@eGullet.org
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Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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I recently got a bag of very small, new Yukon Golds to make a potato salad appetizer where I cut the potatoes in half and scooped them out and then served potato salad in the halves. They took forever to cook. My test half went really badly, it wouldn't scoop, even after boiling for 25 minutes. I wound up making the main 'salad' from some Idaho bakers I had and just cutting out the cavity out of the halves before boiling. I boiled for about 25 minutes in water with a little vinegar and salt. I thought they were done, drained and started to cool them, and then decided to eat one. It was hard. So, I started more water, just salt this time, and cooked them for another ten minutes. They weren't great, but, I had to present something, so, I assembled and went on my way.

 

IMO, my potatoes were just too small, too young and did not have enough starch developed in them.

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Do you think some of the slices could have become stuck together and so been out of contact with the liquid on the stuck side?

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I recently got a bag of very small, new Yukon Golds to make a potato salad appetizer where I cut the potatoes in half and scooped them out and then served potato salad in the halves. They took forever to cook. My test half went really badly, it wouldn't scoop, even after boiling for 25 minutes. I wound up making the main 'salad' from some Idaho bakers I had and just cutting out the cavity out of the halves before boiling. I boiled for about 25 minutes in water with a little vinegar and salt. I thought they were done, drained and started to cool them, and then decided to eat one. It was hard. So, I started more water, just salt this time, and cooked them for another ten minutes. They weren't great, but, I had to present something, so, I assembled and went on my way.

 

IMO, my potatoes were just too small, too young and did not have enough starch developed in them.

Acid will cause pectins to resist degradation. I bet that this was the issue with the first batch. Baking soda has the opposite effect,BTW.

 

Discussed a little here http://forums.egullet.org/topic/141973-starch-infused-french-fry-perfection/?hl=french%20fry%20cooking

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Yeah, I know, I usually add the vinegar to help the shaped potatoes retain the details of the knife cuts. It doesn't prevent cooking properly, I do it all the time, it just means that a thin shell on the outside of my potatoes doesn't get fluffy. (in the above case, I cooked the baking potato dice in water with vinegar and it came out just fine) As I mentioned in the potato salad thread, my potato salad is a showpiece for knife skills and the vinegar is the secret to the potatoes keeping their perfect cubic shapes.

 

The other thing I have noticed in the past few months is newer types of potatoes at the conventional supermarkets, like Yukon Rose. I am wondering if some the Yukon Golds have been changed by some of the farmers experimenting with hybrids, or raising from seeds instead of seed potato chunks.

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Where I live it's hard to find real Yukon Golds; we're usually offered what's called just 'gold' potatoes.

BTW, in another thread here there's been conversation about steaming potatoes (and eggs) as a better alternative to 'boiling'.

I haven't tried it yet but I sure am going to do it.

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Do you think some of the slices could have become stuck together and so been out of contact with the liquid on the stuck side?

 

The first time it happened, that's what I figured. But the other two times (with potatoes cooked in water), the slices were moving around with the boiling water, so I doubt that was a factor.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Did you hand select the potatoes or did they come in a bag?  I'm wondering about some older potatoes mixed in with fresher.


Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

 

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Maybe that one little chunk was from the part of the potato closest to the "stem' ??


Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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The potato could have been improperly cured after harvest. If improperly cured, they sometimes they develop rot, other times a hard core (if stored too cold). This may be what caused your potatoes not to soften. 

Sour cream in a recipe can also be a culprit due to its acidity. Acid will prevent veggies from softening.

Anecdotally, I had a good friend who wanted a baked potato. She put one in the oven at 350°F and after testing it repeatedly for doneness and leaving it in the oven for 3 hours, still had a hard potato. She ended up tossing it in the trash and making rice.

You're not imagining it and you're not alone. :wink:


“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

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My grandmother grew potatoes, and I recall her discarding a large number of them one time due to "blight."  They looked fine to me, other than a vague concentric circle of darker material inside the potato when cut crosswise through the stem.  She told me blighted potatoes will never cook through - they will remain hard.  I have no idea what the "blight" was or is, but I'm curious if the potato in question had that little line in it. 

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Maybe that one little chunk was from the part of the potato closest to the "stem' ??

 

In one case, the hard potato slice was from one of the ends. Is there something in the stem end that keeps potatoes from softening?

 

As for the ideas about blight or improper storage, would either of those affect different parts of a single potato differently? What was strange about these incidents is that only a few of the slices were hard -- all the rest were fine.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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...As for the ideas about blight or improper storage, would either of those affect different parts of a single potato differently? What was strange about these incidents is that only a few of the slices were hard -- all the rest were fine.

 

I don't know.  Maybe if the culprit had infiltrated only part of the tuber, or if a portion was exposed while the remainder was protected? 

 

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Maybe THIS  from the Idaho Potato Commission might help. It does discuss potatoes that don't soften.

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It can also be  due to the potatoes not properly maturing before harvest  or because they are old. 

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Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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