Holy frijoles – flames and death! Ok, not really. I thought this would be a better title than, “A Treatise on Solanum tuberosum,” the potato’s scientific name. After nearly 40 hashcapades, it occurred to me that I’ve seen just about every way to make a potato – boiled, deep-fat fried, pan fried, roasted and grilled. They’ve been mashed, diced, shredded, crumbled, and wedged. But, which potato makes the best potato hash and why? I should have an informed opinion right? The majority of my hashcapades at Chez Clark involve Yukon Gold potatoes for two important reasons: 1) I like the yellow flesh that spruces up the hash’s visual appeal; and 2) they hold a lot of moisture. Also, Yukon just sounds badass and hella cool, but that isn’t very scientific! Anyway, I decided to channel my inner geek and bought one each of the following potatoes: Yukon Gold, Red, Russet, and White.
|I’m ready to dig into this challenge!|
Of the cooking methods above, I had to decide which had the best chance of bringing out the best in all the taters. Most of the time, I pan fry raw, diced potatoes instead of previously roasted ones. For this experiment, I reasoned that roasting develops the more complex flavors. Next, I liberally doused olive oil and salt on the taters, covered them and baked them at 425 for 50 minutes. Whilst waiting, I consulted the bible, “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee and “Starting with Ingredients: Quintessential Recipes for the Way We Really Cook” by Aliza Green. A couple of tidbits from McGee
- There are over 200 species of potato (Wikipedia above) says 5000
- Spaniards brought potatoes from Peru to Europe in 1570
- Spuds are a good source of vitamin C and B
- Potatoes contain toxic alkaloids that manifest as a bitter tast
- Waxy potatoes (Yukon) are more moist due to their cell structure
- Mealy potatoes (Russet) are fluffy and drier as their cell structure breaks down
Green repeated much of McGee’s basic info, but lacked the science info on alkaloids or cell structure! But I found the following interesting:
- Yukon Gold is a cross between a wild South American yellow potato & a North American White Potato
- The University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada created the Yukon Gold
|First sample after roasting and two reference books.|
After roasting, I sampled each several times, noting texture and flavor. The winner was Russet with its roasted, earthy flavors, punctuated by the delicious skin. Next was the White, moister and full flavored. My Yukon came in third, with a more subtle, “planty” flavor. The Red was out of its depth, better for boiling, they say. (It occurs to me that I’m talking about these taters like characters from Reservoir Dogs! Yukon is close to Mr. Orange – Tim Roth, Mr. White – Harvey Keitel!) Back to the post, please? Ok. But what about the next step in the process, frying up the hashed roasted taters? Using 1 Tbsp of grape seed oil, which is more neutral tasting than EVOO, I fried up the potatoes in two pans at a time – Dueling Flames of Death – on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
|Clockwise from upper left: Red, White, Yukon, Russet, post-roast & hashed.|
|Clockwise from upper left: Red, White, Yukon, Russet, post pan frying.|
After frying, I felt vindicated by the Yukon Gold – it was a nice golden brown, still moist and more flavorful, but the texture was a little mushy. Surprisingly, the White tater dropped in the standings, tasting too much like a french fry and lacking the former roasted flavor, but firm – a tie with Yukon. Red browned nicely, but just didn’t do much for me. This left Russet as the winner – nice roasted flavor, firm texture, bold – but not as visually appealing as Yukon. Who knew my photo of mini-me on the Russet would actually show the winner of Dueling Flames of Death?!?!
Happy Hashcapades, Clark