One starch to rule them all

Classy Cooking with Cassie

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Tower of Barad-dur, mashed. Cassie Duncanson/PSU Vanguard

As Sam Gamgee reminds us, potatoes are endlessly versatile. Boil ‘em. Mash ‘em. Stick ‘em in a stew. I always have a bag in my pantry. They can be used for practically any meal. And some nights when I don’t feel like cooking much, they are the meal.

Most college and new-to-apartment-living individuals are familiar with the baked potato. It is my hope that the following options will give you something new to make.

Mash ‘em: mashed potatoes

Depending on your preference, you can peel the potatoes or leave the skin on. Cube your potatoes, precious. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but this is a good time to work on your knife skills. Try and make your cuts even so that everything cooks at the same rate. For mashed potatoes, overcooking isn’t really something to be concerned about, but avoiding it is a good habit to get into.

Toss the potatoes in a pot. Cover with water. Throw a lid on. Turn the heat up on med-high. Throw a big dash of salt in there. Let it rip. Turn the heat off once you can pierce a fork through a chunk of potato with ease. Drain the water. Add a big pat of butter and a splash of milk and mash away. For fancy options, try adding in a little bit of sour cream or cream cheese. One does not simply pour gravy onto Mordor.

Fry ‘em: potato pancakes

I usually use too many potatoes whenever I make mashed and have to dedicate a significant amount of shelf space to leftovers. Start with one to two cups’ worth of leftovers, add a raw egg and stir to combine the ingredients. Drop into a hot pan with a small amount of fat or oil and press into a pancake shape. Fry for a couple of minutes on each side. For three or more cups’ worth of leftovers add two eggs. For additional texture, and to ensure binding, add a small handful of panko or breadcrumbs.

Looking to save time and money? Use instant mashed potatoes. Prepare as indicated by directions, add an egg. Oil in pan. Fry away. My favorite accoutrements are scallions and sour cream.

This is what my in-progress master’s degree has come to: appropriately using the word accoutrements.

Hash ‘em: potato hash

My favorite Sunday breakfast is a big batch of hash with whatever veggies I have hanging out in the fridge. Prep your taters as if you were making mashed (depending on how chunky or thin you enjoy your potatoes.) Boil until they start to go soft, but not so soft that they crush under a small amount of pressure.

Sauté some onions or leeks and a clove of garlic. You can turn the heat up high and crisp up the onions, or keep your burner on a lower heat and let them caramelize. After draining, throw the potatoes in a pan with a healthy serving of butter or oil until they have finished cooking through or are burnt to a crisp. Both are viable options. Add greens and mushrooms or other vegetables toward the end, depending on average cooking time. Serve with a couple of over easy eggs.

Boil ‘em: potato leek soup

Potato leek soup is a low-maintenance soup. All you need: leeks, potatoes, veggie or chicken broth and milk. Slice up one leek. Cook in a large pot with a little bit of butter and oil. Once it begins to lose its opacity, add cubed bits of potatoes and equal parts milk and broth. How much you add depends on how thick or thin you want your soup. Add a dash of salt and a bay leaf—but don’t forget to remove the bay leaf later! Once the potatoes are soft, set the soup aside to cool for approximately ten minutes before blending with an immersion or kitchen blender.

Roast ‘em: roasted potato skins

Let’s say you did peel the potatoes. Save those skins. Coat them in the fat or oil of your choice (bacon fat is highly recommended), sprinkle with coarse salt and bake at 400 F, 15–20 minutes. Eat them plain, drench them in Sriracha or ketchup or cheese. Top your potato leek soup with them.

Enjoy! Make Sam proud.

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