On looking into avolume recently acquired entitled The Cook's Oracle (it was published in NewYork in 1830), I read a dismal warning: "For one plate of potatoes thatcomes to table as it should, ten are spoiled." This dampening sentenceconjures up memories of the "meat and veg" of small English hotels, thegray cannonballs called Kn√∂del in Germany and the terrible greasy messes ofpotatoes and onions encountered on a cross-America motor trek.
No such thingshould ever happen to the glorious, the indispensable, the life-nourishingspud! A casual run-through of any French work on cookery (think of pommesfrites, pommes soufflées, pommes pailles, etc.) will restore one's faith. Sowill any honest Idaho, buttered on the outside by a loving hand before baking,pinched open, white, steaming and mealy, waiting for the salt, pepper andyellow pats of butter that will make it the perfect foil to roast beef.
Then there is theworld-over deliciousness of new potatoes, small golden marbles or rosy-red golfballs, boiled in their skins, anointed with butter and chopped parsley—a tasteas fresh as the new grass of spring. M.F.K. Fisher once observed that almostevery person has some secret thing he likes to eat. For me a greedy delight,furtively enjoyed, is leftovers of cooked new potatoes, filched from theicebox, sliced, salted and peppered with coarse pepper, dotted with small lumpsof cold butter and sprinkled with chives—a food for' the gods at midnight withice-cold milk.
L'art culinairefran√ßais, a modern volume on the ancient and present-day delights of lacuisine, states that there are more than 100 ways in which "apples of theearth" may be made pleasing to a gastronome. This is doubtless anunderstatement, at that. For there are dozens and dozens of things one can doeven to plain mashed potatoes to make them different and appealing to theappetite. Today, all of these recipes—many of them classic dishes with fancynames—are easy to accomplish with the frozen mashed (or "whipped")potatoes which are available countrywide and which I have found to be one ofthe most successful and rewarding of frozen products. Here are some ideas worthconsidering.
VARIATIONS ON ATHEME OF MASHED POTATOES
PotatoesColcannon: A fine Irish dish that varies somewhat from county to county butalways entails a great mountain of mashed potatoes on the platter. It istraditionally served for supper on Oct. 31st, "Gally Night," the eve ofAll Saints' Day. In Galway the potatoes are beaten up with buttermilk andfinely chopped raw seal-lions, and a glob of butter is dropped into anindentation made with the back of a spoon on each individual serving. In otherparts of Ireland, a great half pound of butter is buried in a mound of potatoesa foot high, and slices of fried Irish bacon lean against the pile.
Potatoes to servewith goose and duck: Mashed potatoes mixed with one-third their quantity ofcelery-root purée.
Potatoes tocomplement a platter of hot sausage: Mashed potatoes mixed with half theirquantity of cooked, finely chopped broccoli or other greens.
Potatoesduchesse: This rich preparation, used as a border, can make a chicken hash orbeef or veal stew the chef-d'oeuvre of a party. For an easy way to prepare,follow the package directions for defrosting frozen mashed potatoes, but addvery little milk and whip in double the amount of butter called for on thepackage recipe. Then beat in, off the stove, two egg yolks for each package ofpotatoes used. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. The objective is a potatopurée having such consistency that it can be squeezed easily through a pastrytube but will keep its shape when laid in scallops and swirls to border afireproof platter. After laying down this border, brush it with cream. Placethe platter in a very hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes to turn the potato bordergolden-brown on top. Then fill the center with hot hash or any other desiredmixture, and serve. For potatoes mont d'or, follow the same directions butsqueeze the potato purée in whorls on top of one another to form a mountainshape on a buttered ovenproof plate (or pie tin). Brush with beaten egg; thenexpose for seven minutes to a fierce oven heat. This is a nice change fromfried potatoes when serving steak.
Italian potatopie: A hearty dish which is almost a meal in itself, the following recipeserves six. Defrost two packages of frozen mashed potatoes according to thedirections on the package, then add ¾ cup hot milk, whipping well. Whip in onetablespoon of butter and add seasoning. Thickly butter a 10-inch pie pan orshallow ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the pan evenly with a lining of bread crumbs.On top of this spread half of the mashed potatoes. Take ¼ pound of ham ormortadella, thinly sliced, add ¼ pound of Gruy√®re or Swiss cheese, thinlysliced, and cut into small squares. Arrange the squares on top of the potatoes,together with three eggs which have been boiled six minutes, shelled and cutinto quarters. Cover with the rest of the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and top with ½ cup of melted butter. Cook 20 minutes in a 400 °oven.