To put to rest controversy, according to Dictionary.com, the word “potato” is pronounced the first way: puh-tey-toe. However you pronounce it though, it doesn’t change the fact that this starch vessel is well becoming one of my favorite vegetables… or one of my favorite “good eats.” Growing up, I didn’t care much for potatoes, no matter how it was masked — French Fries, potato salad, anything; it wasn’t for me. Now, I find myself craving them, in any dish. So, imagine how happy I was to realize my next application dealt with spuds.
Episode two, Season one: “This Spud’s For You”… and that was certainly true. Reading this episode, I was flabbergasted to realize certain potato varities are better suited for certain dishes. For instance, I love au gratins and potato salad… and I now know which type of potatoes are best suited for those dishes. Let me explain further — Did you know Russet Potatoes fluff, but fall apart easily so they’re great for French Fries? And you may have guessed Red Potatoes hold their shape, but why? That’s because they are on the opposite side of the starch-spectrum from Russets. Amazing. Alton even provided pictures of main potato varieties, so that non-experienced cooks like myself didn’t have to ask aloud, “What the heck does a Fingerling look like?” Ah Alton, you think of everything.
Now, my potato application: Mashers… AKA mashed potatoes. Alton captured my undivided attention by explaining this application uses two different potato varieties, that way, contrasting and complementary textures will be created. I was so excited. I’d never thought to combine different potatoes. When I made mashed spuds, I’d always stuck with one variety. …Then again, I don’t have the think-outside-the-box chef mentality yet, do I? I’m learning though… I’m learning.
Okay, before I delve into the Mashers, my new software included a two and four-quart saucepan… and, as before, I was thrilled to start “x”-ing off items on my Christmas Wish List. Let me say though, buying saucepans were not half as easy as purchasing a cast iron skillet. I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond again… because A) it was the closest shop to fill my kitchen needs, and B) I’d seen Alton discuss several utensils in Bed, Bath and Beyond before… and well, Alton sets the bar on where to go… at least for me. So Bed Bath & Beyond, there I came… and there all the pots and pans came too. There were quite a few different brands… and inside of brands, you have collections… then finally, the different software. I must have spent over an hour in the store, narrowing down what brand, what collection… until I finally decided: Calphalon. I was thrilled with my decision; I loved the way the pots and pans felt and looked. (Glass lids are a plus for me; they provide constant “peeking” abilities without taking off the lid! Genius really, and I’m confident they were created by an inpatient person like myself.) Yet, two and four-quart saucepans were hard to come by. Later, I researched online and found one Calphalon collection offers a two-quart… but not a four-quart… another collection has a two-point-five and four-point-five-quart… but no where, no where was there a simple two and four-quart saucepan. Why? I asked the employees there, and they were just as clueless as I was. They recommended buying a two-quart with one brand… and a four-quart with a different one. Seriously? I feel like they were joking because they of all people should know customers want a collection — whether it be the company’s already-put-together collection or individual preference — mix-matched brands are no good! How frustrating! Now, I’m going crazy not knowing where to get the pots and pans I need. I have a huge list (which PS-Yes, I did write down every utensil I’d need as I read Alton’s book):
A) Two-quart saucepan
B) Four-quart saucepan
C) Eight-inch sauté pan (Notice, we’re talking inches now. Alton, this may be the only way you’ve let me down thus far. Inches are not common measurements for sauté pans; it needs to be quarts… so what do the inches translate to? …I’m still working on that…)
D) Ten-inch sauté pan
E) Twelve-inch sauté pan
F) Three-quart saucier
G) Twelve-inch skillet
H) Eight-inch nonstick skillet
I) Ten-inch nonstick skillet
J) Twelve-inch nonstick skillet
K) Twelve-inch nonstick pan (PS-What’s a “pan?” Can I just use the skillet? I read the words “fry pan” and “skillet” are interchangeable, depending on the regional dialect… but is this true?)
L) Ten-inch pan
M) Four-quart pot (PPS-What’s a “pot?” Can I use my sauce pot?)
N) Five-quart pot
O) Eight-quart pot
P) Twelve-quart pot
…and that’s the majority… besides… cast iron, stockpots, Dutch ovens and woks… yeah… I know. I’m overdoing it. In my defense though, I did say I’m taking up a new “hobby” so I have to start at the bottom and work my way up. Not only that, but cooking without the right utensils is no good. Period. We’ve already been over that. By the way, I did try to get what was not recommended… and I failed. Again, the eggs are brought up. In closing on the software, what should I do? I know Alton wouldn’t put unattainable pots and pans in his book. He uses the exact items he’s calling for. …So hum, what does he use? I’ve been obsessed with figuring this out. Here’s the answer: All-Clad. I’ve seen this name on several of his items during “Good Eats,” and after researching, I found they offer practically everything on my list… except a five-quart pot… and maybe the skillets… that’s only if pans are not interchangeable. Regardless, I just decided. *Clearing my throat* All-Clad it is. (I am sad though the tops are not glass.) Anyway… *Whew* I’m over talking software now. Goodness grief. Glad I could get that out in the open…
Now to Mashers. The only negative (and PPPS-Not too negative; just a critique) comments I have about this application is the garlic was very strong. While I love garlic, I ‘dunno… I think I would have liked a different strong flavor instead. Oh… and salt. Maybe I’m a salt fiend (by the way, I don’t think so; I rarely use salt in my food), but I think the dish could have used a lot more of the stuff. Potatoes absorb salt… completely… so I am interested to see if all of his dishes offer less salty-qualities. On the positive side, I loved the Mashers. They were incredibly moist and, as introduced, offered the perfect balance between contrasting textures. Yum, yum. I could still eat them… and believe me, I ate a lot.
Speaking of Masher quantities, Alton offers another application called Masher Cakes. Now ideally, James and I agreed we would not make all applications from an episode because paycheck-wise, that’s more than I can shell out. However, because this application specifically dealt with leftover Mashers, we decided to go for it. I mean, leaving about 20-ounces of Mashers in the fridge is an unforgettable crime so we took out the spatula and had our way with the mixture.
On Masher Cakes: Basically, herbs are added to the Mashers to give them a slight, yet amazingly different taste… then, the spud mixture’s divided and breadcrumbs blanket the newly made “cakes.” Again, yum, yum! Maybe I just love potatoes, but this was such a clever application, not only because you can use your leftover Mashers affectively, but because it offers a different side. Strange, but all I could think while eating was, if I had children… and I continue to cook out of Alton’s book… there’s no doubt in my mind my kids would never get tired of certain foods. I felt like food possibilities were endless! And that’s a great thought, since I want to learn to cook because I didn’t want to struggle deciding on what meals to eat anymore. So many days, I’ve rattled off every dish I’m tired of… but something as simple as slight tweaks in one food can create something entirely new.
Alton, do I have to say again, “I’m impressed?” …Nah. Just know, your spud episode turned the page of my culinary background by opening my eyes to the endless possibilities one food can offer. Granted, I’m still learning how to convert one food into endless dishes, but with your help, I’ll be well on my way. …Mashers, you were so good… and beyond needed after that steak.
By the way, why is it the singular word for potato has no “e”… yet the plural word has an “e”? So strange…