Never let it be said that I constantly ask for your advice in order to increase the number of comments I get and then wantonly refuse to take it. Ok, except maybe about the bike colour, but we’ll draw a veil over that for now. Ahem. But anyway, a couple of weeks back I was wondering why my new potatoes exploded when boiled and many of you were kind enough to offer suggestions on how to avoid it. These were:
Start cooking in cold water rather than boiling (I’m guessing this was the implication of cha0tic‘s question, and is also my neighbour’s technique)
Slice them up and make grillpan chips (Jo)
Toughen up the skins by leaving them in the sun for an hour or so (allotment blogger)
And then steam them (also allotment blogger)
Try different kind of potatoes (Bill Sticker)
Full soil sample analysis (J‘s farmer friend)
Use artificial coagulants instead of holding them together with Love (thanks, Mike)
I haven’t tried different kinds of potatoes yet – although I’ll be paying more attention to the variety next year – and somehow I haven’t quite managed to get around to having a full soil sample analysis done – I know, these part-time slacker gardeners, eh? – but I have had a go at most of the other suggestions. I’m afraid I’m not one of those systematic bloggers who sets up proper cooking experiments with controlled and measured outcomes, I just cooked supper in various different ways, but I thought I’d report back on the results. Anyone really really desperate to know how I got on – or who has exploding potatoes of their own – can read on. For the rest of you, I suggest you don’t bother
Cooking from cold – I haven’t tried this (partly because it seems such a waste of energy on our electric stove, although it might be worth trying when the Rayburn’s back up and running again) but my neighbour does this and she’s reporting exploding potatoes this year as well, so I’m guessing it’s not very effective.
Steaming – they still explode, but the result is less soggy than when they’ve been boiled. This would work for mash. It’s also more effective if the potatoes haven’t been cut before cooking but for this to work I have to a) grow a lot of potatoes which are all more or less the same size and b) learn not to put the fork tines through half of them when digging them up.
Grill pan chips. I was dubious about this, especially the no fat part, but I gave it a go out of curiosity. The first attempt I sliced them really thin and balanced them on a rack under the grill. The ones that worked puffed up into little spheres which was really cool. With a little olive oil and salt added they tasted like crisps. The ones that didn’t turned into black carbonised slices. Let’s just say, I was ready to fling the smoke alarms (we have two and they take it in turns going off) into the river by the time I had finished this attempt. The second time I sliced them a little thicker and didn’t bother with the rack. They tasted more like chips than crisps and didn’t blacken so much. Again, they were really nice but they were kind of fiddly to lay out and to turn and I had to do them in shifts in order to get enough to be worth it. They would make a good snack to have with drinks, in the event that we ever get sick of popcorn which isn’t looking likely at the moment.
Laying them out for an hour in the sunshine. Hmmm. First catch your sunshine. I did finally manage to do this a couple of days ago (normally, even if it’s not raining, I only remember we need potatoes about two minutes before I need to start cooking them). So far I haven’t gone back and tried all of your suggestions with the toughened up potatoes (I told you I haven’t been very systematic about this) but I did try using these for the final attempt which was …
Browning them in butter and braising them in stock. There was no actual recipe for this so I had to improvise. I used mostly really small potatoes to keep cutting them to a minimum, and I browned them for about 10 minutes on top of the hob in our heavy casserole dish and then poured 1/4 litre of vegetable stock with some saffron in it over them. (we bought saffron on special offer one day at the supermarket and I don’t really know how best to use it so I tend to chuck it in things if I think they will go. I don’t think it’s exactly essential if you’re trying it at home but it did smell rather nice). I then put it in an oven at 200°C for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes I pulled them out to have a look at them. They had exploded. I took the lid off and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so, which absorbed most of the stock. They were still mushy, but they were deliciously mushy. This counts as an improvement chez TownMouse, especially when I’m doing the cooking
So in short, failing artificial coagulants, I don’t know how to stop my new potatoes from exploding. I’ve still got to try various other recipes I found on the internet and I may even report back at great length here, unless you can work out a way to stop me. So, any more suggestions? Or did you all lose the will to live halfway through reading this and gave up? Hello? Wakey wakey! Hello! I’ve stopped now…