A friend of mine asked me a while ago what food I would take if I was stranded on an island. Planning for food and being stranded seems contradictory, but I digress. I answered immediately, “potatoes”. I love potatoes and for this reason I don’t think that I will ever be a size 10 again. I sautee them, roast them, mash them, wedge and grill them, par cook and hollow them out and the skins make a delightful appetizer bowl.
In the middle of winter when I’m on my own, my “go to” comfort food is a giant baked russet potato with salad on top of it. I eat the skin too. It’s loaded with vitamins and nutrients.
When I was in culinary school we had an entire food lab dedicated to potatoes. I wrote up my recipes and went out the night before with friends. After all, I knew all about potatoes. They are my favourite food. So what if I was a tad hung over? Potatoes are my friends. The night was longer than expected. I had lots of laughs and too much wine. When I got to school for 8:00 the next morning, we were introduced to a new technique: Potatoes Duchesse. A classic method of preparing potatoes. They were baked, cooled, hollowed out. Butter and egg yolks were added to the flesh with a tiny scraping of nutmeg, white pepper and salt. We put this wonderful mix into a piping bag and piped them into columns to be fired under the salamander and browned. I watched my fellow students go through the test (did I mention that it was a test?) When it came to my turn to demonstrate to the Chef that I could pipe like the rest of them, I froze. My columns were coming out looking like Dairy Queen cones. The more I piped, the worse they looked. It was a very frustrating and valuable lesson. In the culinary world, just because you’re familiar with the ingredient, don’t assume you can walk in and nail it. You need to practice skills to master them. I was schooled by those potatoes.
I eventually got the hang of it later and they’re a great addition to any plate especially if you want something different. And they are a great way to impress guests at a dinner party.
At Culinary Edge we love our vegetable root mash. In the February/March 2016 menu we use 2 russet potatoes, 2 large carrots and 1 sweet potato. We steam them until they’re at a “mashable” texture and then hand mash them with butter salt and pepper. The reason why we hand mash them is that if you’re not careful and use a blender you can make them “gluey” which makes them come out like paste. For added flavour and colour, mash peas with the root vegetables for a nice spring refreshing look.