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Celebrating Versatility of a Food Called Spud

September 03, 1987|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

Among the wonderful idiosyncrasies of the English language are some of the words associated with the potato. It has eyes that sprout. Its nickname is spud. Its fibrous pulp is sometimes referred to as meat.

Another is a procedure called blossoming. You can blossom a potato by making a crisscross cut on the top of a cooked potato. Then, using the thumb and index fingers of both hands, push the sides of the potato together, forcing some of the potato through the cut area of the skin.

The potato recipes that follow also have interesting references. First, there's Heaven and Earth, a German dish of apples (the heaven) and potatoes (earth). As its ingredients suggest, this recipe has an interesting flavor, almost imperceptibly sweet, with hearty overtones from the bacon seasoning.

Second, there is Colcannon, an Irish dish of mashed potatoes with tender-crisp cabbage and green onions. This attractive and texturally interesting dish is perfectly suited to the microwave.

Plain microwaved potatoes take just three to six minutes per potato to cook at HIGH power, so baked potatoes are easy to serve anytime. Remember to pierce them before microwaving.

Although whole baked potatoes are easiest to prepare, uniformly cut pieces cook most evenly. Uniform cubes are easy to make by cutting the potato lengthwise into quarters, then cutting each quarter into four or five pieces. Because microwaving cooks small pieces most rapidly, you save time by peeling and cutting up potatoes that you are going to mash.

Cut-up potatoes and vegetables should be microwaved with a few tablespoons of water. This will help to produce steam during cooking. When cooking vegetables conventionally, you usually add about an inch of water to the saucepan. Since not as much water is used in microwaving, there is no need to drain the vegetables after cooking. This saves significant amounts of nutrients. When adapting recipes for cut-up vegetables to microwave cooking, however, remember that seasonings added to the cooking water won't be lost. So don't over season.

Be sure to cover potatoes and other vegetables with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap when steaming them. And when uncovering such dishes, lift the top carefully so you don't burn yourself.

HEAVEN AND EARTH

(Apples and Potato Cubes)

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons water

4 cups (1-inch cubes) unpeeled potatoes

3 cups (1/2-inch slices) unpeeled cored apples

4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch squares

1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion, separated into rings

Nutmeg

Place sugar, water and potatoes in 2-quart microwave-safe casserole. Cover. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 8 to 11 minutes, just until potatoes are barely tender. Add apples and continue microwaving at HIGH 2 to 3 more minutes, until apples are slightly softened. Remove from microwave and let stand, covered.

Place bacon in 1-quart microwave-safe casserole. Microwave, uncovered, at HIGH about 3 minutes, stirring after 1 1/2 minutes, until crisp. Add onion rings and continue microwaving 3 to 5 minutes, just until onion is softened and translucent.

Just before serving, uncover potatoes and apples and stir gently to separate pieces. Sprinkle top with nutmeg, then top with bacon and onion rings and drizzle with bacon fat to taste, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

COLCANNON

(Mashed Potatoes

With Cabbage)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons water

4 cups (1-inch cubes) peeled potatoes

2 cups shredded cabbage

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1/3 to 1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons butter

Dash ground black pepper

Place salt, 1/4 cup water and potatoes in 2-quart microwave-safe casserole. Cover. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 10 to 14 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Set aside, covered.

In 1-quart microwave-safe casserole, place cabbage, green onions and remaining 3 tablespoons water. Cover and microwave at HIGH 3 to 6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until cabbage is bright green and tender-crisp. Set aside, covered.

With electric mixer or potato masher, begin mashing potatoes, gradually adding milk and butter until potatoes are smooth. Mix in pepper. With spoon, stir in cabbage and green onions until well distributed. If necessary, reheat Colcannon at HIGH 2 minutes or more, just before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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