I have always welcomed Fall with a relieved sigh. Even if you are not in school and don’t even know anyone in school, a calm, relaxed routine seems to appear in our lives in early fall. The summer mania has petered out even if you didn’t do anything out of the ordinary yourself. The world around us has a routine that does affect us and life is good. Sigh. The upcoming holidays that crowd our lives every winter are far enough away to not yet distress us. The changes in temperatures are more noticeable. I suddenly need to put on a jacket. The changing of the season usually puts a smile on my face–life’s rhythm is also changing. A good old pot of beans sounds good.
Fall food can be the ultimate in comfort food. Slow-cooked hearty simple meals are the norm. Root vegetables replace our leafy greens even though they are now available all year round. Apple cobblers and pear tarts replace our strawberry shortcake.
We tend to entertain less and be homebodies in the fall, perhaps a regrouping and the calm before the storm. It is a good time to experiment with new recipes and try some new ingredients. I haven’t turned on the oven in months. I’m ready to bake.
Mashed Potato Seminar:
The perfect mashed potatoes start with the right potatoes. Ideally you would start with a boiling potato. We have all purchased the big brown bag of baking potatoes on sale at the store. Typically they are #2 in grade, seconds, not #1. There is nothing wrong with that…but what are you going to do with them? They are not ideal for baking. Often they are misshaped (twisted so the skin swirls inside the meat of the potato), damaged during harvesting (cut, or broken) or old. This would seem like a perfect potato to peel, cut up, boil and mash. But, baking potatoes are what their name implies: ideal for baking. (That’s not to say a baking potato can’t be mashed.) A baking potato, when baked properly, transforms into a fluffy starch miracle, which cannot be achieved with a boiling potato. The same is true of a boiling potato when mashed properly.
The science of potatoes is not for everyone, I’m sure, but it is the difference between success and failure. Have you ever tried to make French fries or potato chips yourself? The most common outcome is a very brown limp product. This is caused by too much sugar in the potato. The right starch and sugar content is critical. In most stores there are baking or boiling potatoes available to buy. For frying, the Kennebeck has proven the best for me. I have never seen one to buy in a retail market. There is no trick to making french fries at home–just the right initial ingredients. That is true in all cooking: no tricks, only knowledge.
Instead of a menu this time I’m going to provide a variety of recipes to play with.