Scalloped Potatoes

For our final potato installment, I'll leave you with scalloped potatoes.  The most common version involves smothering sliced potatoes with a white cream sauce made up of a mix of flour and butter.  While those are delicious, there's always an easier alternative (and I'm not talking out-of-a-box).  This recipe makes use of soup and sour cream for a great creamy finish.

- about 1/2 a can of cream of mushroom soup
- 1/4 cup of sour cream
- 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth
- enough potatoes for 2 people (2 russet or 3-5 gold, white or red potatoes)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.
2.  Wash & peel the potatoes, then cut into thin slices.
3.  In a large bowl, mix the soup, sour cream and water.
4.  Spray a small baking dish with cooking spray and layer with half the potatoes.  Pour half the soup mixture on top, then make a second layer of potatoes and soup.
5.  Bake for about an hour, or until tender.
6.  Enjoy!
[Serves 2]

  • This is another dish that I love to experiment with.  You can use nearly any cream soup, although the most popular alternatives mix grated cheese with sour cream or cream cheese.  The easiest by far, though, is a simple mix of melted butter and cheese smothered over the potatoes.  
  • Some people recommend covering the potatoes for the first 45 minutes before letting the tops brown for the last 15-20.
  • *Make this dish a meal by adding chopped ham and some peas or other veggies to the mix!  


Twice Baked Potatoes

Last year was my first Thanksgiving away from my mother's table and in addition to my natural aversion to traditional Thanksgiving buffets, I was not at all ready to tackle the whole meal all on my own. Fortunately, I was not alone and my fellow quarter-lifers who were stranded in Singapore for the holiday decided to band together for a pot-luck of sorts. The company was fabulous, the sides were delicious, the homemade pumpkin pie was devine, but the pre-cooked [and surprisingly pre-carved] turkey was what really made the day [ha!].

My contribution to the smorgasbord: twice baked potatoes.

If you're looking for something to bring to your own Thanksgiving pot-luck or want to impress your family by chipping-in this year, twice baked potatoes are a great way to go.  What's best: they're an easy and delicious side-dish cleverly disguised as fancy food.

- 1/4 cup [or less] of sour cream
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 Tbs butter/margarine
- a dash of garlic powder and basil and/or parsley
- 2 large potatoes

1.  Bake the potatoes for about a hour or until crispy.
2.  Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the contents, being careful to leave about a 1/4 inch of flesh on the skin.
3.  Mash the potatoes in a large bowl with the sour cream, butter, spices and about half the cheese.
4.  Spoon the mashed potatoes back into the hollow potato skins and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
5.  Bake for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
6.  Enjoy!
[Serves 2]

  • I actually throw out a skin or two so that the mashed parts really fill the skins.  If you're multiplying this recipe I would probably toss out 1 of every 4 half-potato skins or so.
  • Alternatively, some people recommend cutting off as little of the top of the potato as possible rather than cutting in half.    
  • I just read a claim that microwaving the potatoes for a minute or two first cuts the baking time in half.  I will have to give this a try some time and validate it...
  • I have not tried this yet, but this year I'm going to pop the skins in the oven while I mash the insides.  I'm hopping this will crisp up the skin "bowls" a bit more.  Will report back if it works!

  • Like the loaded mashed potatoes, the exact amount of butter, sour cream and cheese in your mix will be up to you!  The measurements given are the most common among recipes I've read.
  • A few versions swap out the sour cream with cream cheese.  Very tempting, hmmm.
  • Experiment with these!  I've given the classic version, but you can mix-in and top-on all sorts of things!  This year I'm thinking of making bacon-swiss versions with swiss cheese and bacon on top with a pinch of parmesan mixed-in.  Other common mix-ins are chives, paprika, chili powder, eggs and even ranch dressing!


Loaded Mashed Potatoes

It's a real shame- I went nearly 20 years of my life thinking I hated mashed potatoes because of those awful imitation blobs they served in the high school cafeteria. Luckily, I'm prone to do odd and impulsive things and one Friday evening as a senior in college, preparing to surprise my post-grad boyfriend with dinner in his Manhattan apartment and armed with merely a fork and a bowl, I got the brilliant idea to smash up a potato.  Maybe it was the hard labor I had to put into mashing that thing, but it was fabulous, and I've been a mashed potato devotee ever since.

I had been loyally mashing up the standard milk and butter potatoes until last Christmas when I received a great recipe for mashed potatoes with brie.  Those were heavenly, but since brie was typically a little out of my price range (Singapore cheese prices, *sigh*), that recipe has evolved into the exorbitant mess I bring you today:

- grated cheese of choice (cheddar is the best bet, small amounts of parmesan are divine and, of course, brie is awesome if you have the luxury)
- about a Tbs of butter/margarine
- a dollop of sour cream
- a dash each of parsley, basil and garlic powder
- bacon bits
- milk as needed
- works best with: yellow or white potatoes, but most others will be just fine

1.  Rinse and wash potatoes and remove any eyes or dark spots.
2.  Chop potatoes into quarters and cover with water in a saucepan or pot.
3.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 15-20 minutes more, until the potatoes start to fall apart and the skins are trying to peel off.
4.  Remove the potatoes to a large bowl and add everything but the milk.  Mash with a big wooden spoon until the potatoes reach your desired consistency.  If the potatoes are too dry, add small amounts of milk and continue mashing and mixing until you're pleased with the results.
5.  Enjoy!

  • Since this recipe uses sour cream, there shouldn't be much of a need for milk- if at all -so be sure to mix everything up without the milk first. Otherwise, you're potatoes will be a bit too wet, like the ones in the top photo.
  • Mashing methods vary.  A big spoon, even of the non-wooden variety, is the most popular method and is much easier than you think.  You can also buy spiffy mashers at most kitchen stores that look like this.  My mother always used an electric egg-beater to make super smooth potatoes.  And if you're daring, you could always try the little fork.
  • All the ingredients should be added by taste and the measurements given are just a starting point.  After a time or two, you'll know how much cheese, garlic and sour cream flavor you want your loaded potatoes to have.

  • You'll notice that I do not remove skins in this recipe.  Some people like them and think keeping them in makes your mashed potatoes a bit fancier. They also claim that the skins pack more nutrients.  At any rate, if you just hate potato skins, instead of painstakingly peeling your potatoes before you boil them, I recommend boiling them skin on and in bigger chunks.  The skins pull right off after they're cooked.  
  • Basic mashed potatoes use just butter and milk, but you can mix in any variety of spices and mix-ins to make them loaded to your liking.  I've seen some good recipes with: 
        - garlic and rosemary
        - feta cheese, whipped cream and pepper
        - nutmeg and salt
        - apples, bacon bits and onion


Roasted Potatoes

Deceptively devine, few side-dishes are as easy and painless as roasted potatoes.

- spray oil/butter, olive oil or melted butter
- spices of choice
- works best with: red/new potatoes or small yellow or white potatoes

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F/175C
2.  Wash the potatoes with a brush or the scrubbing side of a sponge, being careful not to scrape away the skin.  Then, use a teaspoon to dig out any big eyes or knots.
3.  Chop the potatoes in halves and then quarters (or any other preferred "shape")
4.  Lightly coat with butter or oil and place skin-side down on a baking sheet.  I prefer to lay out the potatoes on a baking sheet and simply spray them with vegetable/olive oil spray.  Alternatively, you can lightly rub them or mix them in a bowl with oil or melted butter.
5. Sprinkle with seasonings.
6. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the edges begin to puff up and turn brown at the corners.
7.  Enjoy!

Seasoning Suggestions:

Roasted potatoes are a truly excellent opportunity to experiment with flavors and combinations.  Those pictured were a happily successful attempt with coriander, garlic, a dash of cajun spice and some left-over instant cheese sauce powder.  The cheese powder made an delicious crispy coating, and I only wish that I had used more!  Here are some more traditional seasoning mixes:
  • parsley, garlic powder, onion powder and salt
  • lemon juice, garlic, dill weed, black pepper
  • garlic powder, onion powder and italian seasonings (rosemary, basil, oregano)
  • oregano, mint, garlic, salt and a dash of lemon juice
  • chili powder or red pepper flakes, garlic, onion powder and salt
  • a package of instant soup powder such as french onion or cream of mushroom
  • shredded cheddar cheese

  • For my many oven-less friends, unfortunately, I've never tried these bad boys without an oven.  However, I have a feeling that they would turn out pretty well pan-fried as well.  They just might not be as crispy.


Perfect Potatoes

"Frieslander" potatoes
I must admit, I don't get into Thanksgiving quite as much as I do Halloween. Not really at all, actually. Aside from the turkey and the cranberry sauce, what do you have? Stuffing, squash, corn, candied yams, pumpkin pie...starch, starch and more starch.  No wonder you always feel fat when the meal is done.  One popular Thanksgiving-day starch that I will always support, however, is the potato.

You should always have a sack of potatoes in your kitchen.  Not only are they a reliable, staple side-dish, but they also last for ages.  [Although, not quite for 3.5+ months as a certain significant other of mine had to learn the hard way]  There's also about a million and a half wonderful ways that you can prepare a potato, so they'll never get boring.  And while I would love to test and share every single one of them, for the sake of this blog and this month's theme, I'll start by covering some potato side-dish basics that have been a regular part of my meal rotation since I first found myself in my own kitchen two years ago.

And so I begin with how to
make the perfect baked potato:

- olive oil
- salt
- butter/margarine
- works best with:
ordinary brown/Russet potatoes, the bigger the better!

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F/175C
2.  Wash the potatoes with a brush or the scrubbing side of a sponge, being careful not to scrape away the skin.  Then, use a teaspoon to dig out any big eyes or knots.
3.  Stab each potato numerous times with a fork or knife and lightly dry them with a paper towel.
4.  Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and dip each potato into the oil and roll it around a bit.  Then, sprinkle salt all over the potato.
*I find the most effective way to do this is not to be afraid of getting messy.  After dipping the potato in oil, I pick it up, smear the oil around with my hand and then hold the potato over the sink while I sprinkle salt on it.  I then put each one straight in the oven as I go...this can actually be pretty efficient if you manage to do the dipping and oiling with one hand and salting & oven door operating with the other.

5.  Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack with an aluminium foil-wrapped cookie sheet or drip pan underneath.
6.  Bake for about an hour, depending on the size of the potatoes.  The best way to know that the potatoes are done is that the skin will get crispy and puffed and sticking a fork in them should be as easy as butter.
7.  Slice each potato open either with a knife or by stabbing a line across the middle with a fork and pressing the sides.  Be careful because the potatoes will be hot- I usually handle them with a paper towel until they're ready to eat.

8.  While the potato is still hot, use a fork to gently break up the insides and plop your desired mound of butter on top.  This way, you mix a great and subtle buttery taste right in with the potato.
9.  Top with any exciting array of your
favorite toppings.
10.  Enjoy!

  • Don't be fooled into thinking this is a time-consuming task.  So long as you don't mind sitting back and relaxing while the potatoes cook, baked potatoes are pretty simple.
  • If you have it, sea salt makes for the ideal salt coating.

  • Microwaving.  It can speed up the process, and is an unfortunate necessity for the oven-deprived, but I don't recommend it.  I also can't give proper instructions because microwaving a potato is a fine art which depends heavily on the microwave and the potato at hand.  If you dare to microwave, though, stay true to the fork-poking test and do not cut the potato open until you're certain it's cooked.  A cut potato will never finish cooking in the microwave.
  • Steaming.  My dearest and most recent roommate somehow manages to live both without an oven AND a microwave.  And this did not bode well the day I absent-mindedly set out to make baked potatoes with dinner.  What I learned that day is that boiling a pot of water with the potato in a steamer basket or on top of a steamer tray for about an hour makes for a decently cooked potato. 
Happy Cooking! 
Kid's Mr. Potatohead Version 2.0 - 0920200911661