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Pete at Home
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I was told when I was young that when baking potatos, you had to poke them with a fork. Maybe they told me why, but I didn't remember. Today, I decided to flout authority and bake potatos without poking them.

The first one blew up in my hand. Exploded, leaving white potato guts all over the oven.

Damn. Sometimes they're right.

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scifibum
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>_<

I knew not to microwave an egg in the shell, as it would likely explode. However, I failed to extrapolate from this that I should not microwave a a whole cold, peeled hard boiled egg. Turns out the egg white can hold on long enough to lead to an impressive explosion when it finally bursts. In my case it happened when I pulled it out and applied a fork. I had egg guts all over myself and half the kitchen. Only minor first degree burns, thank goodness.

[ July 01, 2012, 06:46 PM: Message edited by: scifibum ]

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Grant
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LMAO
Seriously been laughing for a minute straight

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Jordan
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Ouch, you guys…

Growing up in a poor Scottish family gives you good reason to meditate on the perfect way to bake a potato. Nowadays, a baked potato is something of an indulgence for me. It goes something like this:

  • You want a floury potato for a fluffy filling—King Edwards are good, but I don't know if you guys are as serious about your potatoes as we are.
  • Poke the damn thing with a fork. Next time you don't, so help me, I will come to your house and poke YOU with STICKS.
  • Rub in a little olive oil for extra crispiness.
  • Sprinkle on some sea salt. The oil makes it stick, and it will taste amazing.
  • Cook it in an actual damn oven, not a microwave. It will take ages, like an hour. Suck it up, go do some ironing. Microwaved baked potatoes are for savages and slack Alices.
  • No tinfoil if you want a crispy skin.
  • One of my favourite fillings: cut it open, scoop out the flesh and mix it with a little butter, cheese and decent tinned tuna. Return to the potato, throw some sliced scallions on and sprinkle with more cheese. Grill for a few minutes until melted and season with some milled black pepper.

You don't just make good baked potatoes, you earn them.

[ July 02, 2012, 06:46 AM: Message edited by: Jordan ]

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scifibum
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Over here, potatoes have boring names like "Red" and "Russet." Even the fancy ones are still colors, like "Yukon Gold." (OK, to be fair that is probably more of a precious metal analogy, if a hopelessly hyperbolic one.)

For baking I think Russet is pretty much the standard. I wonder how it compares to a King Edward. I wonder where I might find one.

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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Jordan:

[list]
[*]You want a floury potato for a fluffy filling—King Edwards are good, but I don't know if you guys are as serious about your potatoes as we are.
[*]Poke the damn thing with a fork. Next time you don't, so help me, I will come to your house and poke YOU with STICKS.

[LOL]
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Pete at Home
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Wiki says: "The Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 coincided with the introduction of this variety of potato and its name is believed to originate as a 'commemoration' of this occasion."

Wow. We must not be as serious about our potatoes as the Scotts are. And my dad's from Idaho.

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LetterRip
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I've been making mashed potatoes from scratch lately - they are yummy.
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vegimo
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From scratching behind your ears? (They're so dirty you could grow potatoes!)
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Wow. We must not be as serious about our potatoes as the Scotts are. And my dad's from Idaho.

Potatoes were one of the primary sources of nutrition for pre-victorian england, ireland, and scotland. The transplanting of the potato from North America to the British Isles established the agricultural base for the population explosion that occured in the isles that supported and was supported by the commercial and industrial revolutions therein.

There has been no comparable source of nutrition in the Americas, which has had a wide range of options availabe, from corn, to wheat, to rice, to potatoes, etc. So the British and Irish have a reason to be serious about their potatoes.

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LetterRip
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Oh and only primitives would use a conventional or microwave oven, a true afficionado uses sous vide to achieve the exact temperatures (two separate cookings) to achieve the proper smooth creamy texture of the starch granules without any hint of stickiness or graininess.
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Pete at Home
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Wheat and barley don't grow in the British Isles?
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Grant
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They do, but they're not as cheap [Smile]

(I suspect)

Edit: For the same amount of land, you can grow more meals worth, with less rain and labor, and store for longer, then you can with wheat or barley.

But I'm not in Ag. I'm just guessing.

[ July 02, 2012, 03:21 PM: Message edited by: Grant ]

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Wheat and barley don't grow in the British Isles?

At least in Ireland, potatoes were available (till the blight) to the native populations where grains were grown as cash crops and sold by the landowners. See An Gorta Mor.
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Pete at Home
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Ah yes. Kind of hard to have a tiny wheat garden.

I never realized the potato blight was so regressive.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Oh and only primitives would use a conventional or microwave oven, a true afficionado uses sous vide to achieve the exact temperatures (two separate cookings) to achieve the proper smooth creamy texture of the starch granules without any hint of stickiness or graininess.

sous vide translates to "under empty" but what do you mean?
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kmbboots
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sous-vide
quote:
Sous-vide (play /suːˈviːd/; French for "under vacuum")[1] is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time—72 hours in some cases—at an accurately determined temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 60 °C (140 °F). The intention is to cook the item evenly, not overcook the outside while still keeping the inside at the same 'doneness' and to keep the food juicier.

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Jordan
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quote:
scifibum:
For baking I think Russet is pretty much the standard. I wonder how it compares to a King Edward. I wonder where I might find one.

Hmm. Did a quick read; Russet will probably be fine, it's fairly starchy, not too moist.

We are a bit over-keen on potatoes here. If you think people are joking about how much we like chips, well, just visit Glasgow some time! Any decent supermarket will stock half a dozen to a dozen varieties at least. Off the top of my head, I've tried Maris Piper, Golden Wonder, Desiree, Rooster, King Edwards, Vivaldi, Jersey New, Charlotte… And most places with farms nearby will have their own local varieties. Where I was born they grow Ayrshire potatoes, which are fertilised with seaweed and quite distinctive. [Smile]

[ July 02, 2012, 05:19 PM: Message edited by: Jordan ]

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Jordan
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quote:
Pete:
I never realized the potato blight was so regressive.

It's not called the Great Famine for nothing. Over a million people died; Ireland's population dropped by something like a quarter. [Frown]
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Jordan:
quote:
Pete:
I never realized the potato blight was so regressive.

It's not called the Great Famine for nothing. Over a million people died; Ireland's population dropped by something like a quarter. [Frown]
And it wasn't a famine at all. The only crop affected by the blight was the potato crop. Ireland was still exporting food throughout the Hunger. The Scottish Highlands were hit pretty hard, too.

[ July 02, 2012, 05:31 PM: Message edited by: kmbboots ]

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Jordan
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quote:
LR:
Oh and only primitives would use a conventional or microwave oven, a true afficionado uses sous vide to achieve the exact temperatures (two separate cookings) to achieve the proper smooth creamy texture of the starch granules without any hint of stickiness or graininess.

Faddish poppycock. The perfect baked potato has a thick, crispy skin that you cannot achieve at such low temperatures.

I will allow that some deft torching after might be sufficient, but I will not believe it until I taste the results myself.

(This also violates one of the prime use cases for baked potato consumption: a dish not easily overcooked that can be prepared on the instant and ready in just enough time to have a decent soak in the bath.)

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starLisa
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Red potatoes are the best. The brown ones are just too starchy.
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LetterRip
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Was mostly joking [Smile] haven't actually done them sous vide, but apparently the cooking at two different temps (with cooling in between) is necessary for the perfect result. Don't recall if it was cooks illustrated or some other science based cooking source.
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Pete at Home
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Interesting, Jordan; I've got a torch lighter; I wonder if that could be used to crisp Potato skins? <ducks and runs>
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Jordan
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quote:
Kate:
[I]t wasn't a famine at all. The only crop affected by the blight was the potato crop.

…Which a great many of the population were dependent on, in Ireland.

Why wasn't it a famine? (We always learned about it as a famine in school.)

quote:
Ireland was still exporting food throughout the Hunger.
Yes, which was horrible, and Anglo–Irish relations suffered greatly for it. [Frown]

quote:
The Scottish Highlands were hit pretty hard, too.
I'm trying to recall something from primary school about how it came on the heels of the Highland clearances—Kate, you seem to be up on your history, do you remember anything about that? We studied the potato famine in high school, but the last I can remember of the clearances was a book we re-enacted in school over fifteen years ago. [Smile]
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Jordan
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Was mostly joking [Smile] haven't actually done them sous vide, but apparently the cooking at two different temps (with cooling in between) is necessary for the perfect result. Don't recall if it was cooks illustrated or some other science based cooking source.

…In fact, I feel a horrible compulsion to try it anyway, even if just to complain bitterly about the results. I have a good rice cooker, more culinary equipment than I really need and a decent background in control theory; I'm certain I could rig something up to maintain a stable temperature. (I can also get another rice cooker quite easily; I owe my current one to knowing a cleaner at the local university who happily passed one on from the dozens that students leave behind over the summer. [Smile] ) Maybe I
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kmbboots
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Jordan, as I recall, the potato blight hit all over Europe and the British Isles. Places where the people owned the land they farmed could adapt. Crofters were in a similar state to the Irish tenant farmers (though I don't recall if the ban on Catholics owning land was in force in Scotland). Crofters were given oatmeal in return for rather brutal work (mostly on the roads) and many were evicted. Some were even shipped en masse to North America.

[ July 02, 2012, 05:56 PM: Message edited by: kmbboots ]

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Jordan
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quote:
Pete:
I've got a torch lighter; I wonder if that could be used to crisp Potato skins?

As in a cigarette lighter? [Eek!] Because if that's what you mean, you better run! [Razz]
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Jordan
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Jordan, as I recall, the potato blight hit all over Europe and the British Isles. Places where the people owned the land they farmed could adapt. Crofters were in a similar state to the Irish tenant farmers (though I don't recall if the ban on Catholics owning land was in force in Scotland). Crofters were given oatmeal in return for rather brutal work (mostly on the roads) and many were evicted. Some were even shipped en masse to North America.

Yep, I remember that it was something that affected much of Europe; Ireland was particularly affected because they came to rely on potatoes extensively due to the extreme poverty that many, especially Irish Catholics, lived in. As someone mentioned earlier, they didn't have big farms, so potatoes were about the only crop with a sufficient yield. (In the case of the Scottish Highlanders, I think it was more about potatoes being hardly and the land quite poor for crops.)

Now you mention it, I do recall that the restrictions on Irish Catholics were part of the reason for their continued deprivation and disenfranchisement, which is as good an argument for affirmative action as can be mustered.

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LetterRip
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I think it was modernist cuisine now that I've thought on it 'retrograded mashed potatoes'

http://www.gilttaste.com/stories/3098-guaranteed-non-gummy-mashed-potato-recipe-from-mission-street-food

http://www.kayahara.ca/2011/03/perfecting-potato-puree/

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Jordan:
quote:
Pete:
I've got a torch lighter; I wonder if that could be used to crisp Potato skins?

As in a cigarette lighter? [Eek!] Because if that's what you mean, you better run! [Razz]
Regular lighters suffice for cigarettes, which I still do run from. Torches are more for lighting cigars, as well as what I use them for. [Frown]
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LoverOfJoy
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I've heard stories (not sure if it's true) that the French did not take to potatoes very well at first. So the French royalty heavily guarded potato farms by day and left it unguarded at night. The French commons assumed these must be very valuable and stole them and soon after potato farms spread throughout France.
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ken_in_sc
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The French thought potatoes were an aphrodisiac, perhaps because they looked like testicles. The French for potato is pomme de terre—apple of the earth. The English word potato comes from a mispronunciation of pomme de terre.
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AI Wessex
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I don't think that's right. The Spanish patata comes from the indigenous American batata. The French named it pomme de terre descriptively when it was imported from the Americas.
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LoverOfJoy
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I'm not sure how reliable this source is, but...

quote:
1771 – Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813), a French military chemist and botanist, won a contest sponsored by the Academy of Besancon to find a food “capable of reducing the calamities of famine” with his study of the potato called Chemical Examination of the Potato. According to historical account, he was taken prisoner five times by the Prussians during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) and obliged to survive on a diet of potatoes. He also served dinners at which all courses were made of potatoes. Many French potato dishes now bear his name today.

In 1785, Parmentier persuades Louis XVI (1754–1793), King of France, to encourage cultivation of potatoes. The King let him plant 100 useless acres outside Paris, France in potatoes with troops keeping the field heavily guarded. This aroused public curiosity and the people decided that anything so carefully guarded must be valuable. One night Parmentier allowed the guards to go off duty, and the local farmers, as he had hoped, went into the field, confiscated the potatoes and planted them on their own farms. From this small start, the habit of growing and eating potatoes spread. It is said that Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), Queen of France and married to Louis XVI, often pinned potato flowers in her curls. Because of her, ladies of the era wore potato blossoms in their hair.


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Viking_Longship
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The only reason that Scotland didn't get hit as hard as Ireland during the blight was that there were a few individuals who organized a relief effort.

I heard once on NPR that there was a visible population spike throughout Europe after the introduction of the potato.

My in-laws in Russia maintained a potato patch about the size of a volleyball court. Usually we were eating those potatos from mid-summer until Christmas.

When the potato was introduced to Russia the serfs were not told what part of the plant to eat leading to widespread poisoning from people eating the tops.

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AI Wessex
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LoJ and VL, this was my favorite anecdote [Smile] :
quote:
1589 – Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), British explorer and historian known for his expeditions to the Americas, first brought the potato to Ireland and planted them at his Irish estate at Myrtle Grove, Youghal, near Cork, Ireland. Legend has it that he made a gift of the potato plant to Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603). The local gentry were invited to a royal banquet featuring the potato in every course. Unfortunately, the cooks were uneducated in the matter of potatoes, tossed out the lumpy-looking tubers and brought to the royal table a dish of boiled stems and leaves (which are poisonous), which promptly made everyone deathly ill. The potatoes were then banned from court.

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