Sunday, April 2, 2006

Red Butter

No, not a new dairy fad. My new favorite potato! So far I've made oven fries, mashed potatoes, even used them in a gordita filling. This morning, I thought I'd try them out as hashbrowns (the cubed kind, not the shredded kind), using the opportunity to test drive my shiny new steamer basket.

See, here's the problem. Have you ever tried to make hashbrowns using real, fresh potatoes? The outside gets all crispy and tasty looking, while the inside stays all crispy and raw. Back when me pa used to teach me how to cook, we used good old frozen, southern style potatoes. Those always worked out really well. Why not fresh potatoes? Well, I'll tell ya. The frozen taters that we used to buy were par-cooked. They cooked 'em halfway, froze 'em, and shipped 'em. So by the time they got to our frying pan, they needed only to be thawed and crisped up.

So obviously, what I needed was a way to par-cook them, to get them to that point, before they even hit my frying pan. I could bake them, and that would dry them out, concentrate the flavors, and make them stick to the pan or the pan liner, plus they might still get browned. I could microwave 'em, that would certainly be a healthy solution that would get at least half of 'em, or I could just pan fry 'em on REALLY low heat for a while, hope they didn't overbrown, and well, be where I was at before. Or... OR! Or I could play with my new kitchen equipment, namely, my steamer basket.

Two small red butter potatoes, sliced into 1/4" cubes were placed in the basket in a pot with an inch or so of water on the bottom, and covered. I steamed until fork tender, about 10 minutes. In truth, they were just about ready to fall apart, but they didn't look it. I added to an lightly oiled non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat, added a pinch of Kosher salt, and tossed frequently, giving it a light spray with cooking spray on each toss. I tried not to stir; these things were on the verge of falling apart, and I wanted 'em to crisp up and get a little more stable before that happened. When they started looking a little browned, I crumbled in about 1/4 cup of ground beef, with another pinch of salt, and kept tossing. The idea was to keep everything moving so that it all got evenly browned. After a moment, I added a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce, a splash of chipotle Tobasco, a couple shakes of southwest seasoning, and a few grinds of black pepper. Keep tossing. I finished with about 1/3 cup of salsa and kept tossing, until the liquid was pretty much evaporated and what was left clung to everything like a tasty coat of latin goodness. Plated and topped with a bit of shredded cheddar, it was just about the perfect size for my wife and me.

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