Monday, December 3, 2012

Let-down potatoes

I had a handful of old potatoes in the cupboard, all wrinkly and growing eyes. Convenient, then, that Edmonds have a recipe that specifically calls for "old potatoes"

Hash brown potatoes (p160) is a recipe with only three main ingredients - potatoes, bacon and butter (there are also chives, but that's just a garnish). Funny how three simple ingredients can sound so appealing, isn't it?

Fist you have to deal with the potatoes - first peeling, then boiling and mashing. There's no mystery to that bit. Next, you melt butter in a frypan. I put in less than the recipe said (because I didn't have quite enough potatoes either) but it still seemed like heaps!

I cut my rashers of bacon to manageable sized bits, and placed them in the pan with the butter. It smelled heavenly, but I had some difficulty getting the bacon to go 'crispy' as it said in the recipe. It seemed almost to be poaching in the butter rather than frying. When I was finally satisfied it wasn't going to get any crispier, I fished out the bacon and set it to drain on some paper towels. It wasn't very crispy, but it'd do.

I left all the butter and bacon juices in the bottom of the pan, and scooped in the mashed potato, flattening it down until it filled the whole base of the pan evenly. I'd chosen a small frying pan, because I didn't think I had enough potato to spread over one of my larger ones, but surprisingly, what I had filled the smaller pan quite thickly.

After 25 minutes over a low heat, the potato had a nice golden base on it, and I was preparing to turn the hash brown and cook the other side. Thinking I had hit upon the best way to do this, I turned the hash brown out onto a plate and attempted to slide it into the pan. Disaster: most of it went back into the pan, but not very neatly, and some was smeared down the side and was burning onto the element. It took the highest fan setting on my rangehood and several minutes of frantic cleaning to prevent the smell of scorching potato from filling the house, and the smoke from setting off the alarms.

It doesn't say how long you're supposed to cook the other side for. I just left it until my salad was ready and I was sick of waiting, then I scooped out a portion, and sprinkled over bits of bacon and chopped chives.

I'd really expected this dish to be delicious. All that naughty butter and bacon.. Unfortunately, though I had managed to get a crisp surface on each side, the middle was just plain mashed potato. The bacon, while tasty, was not crispy as described in the recipe. The whole thing was actually fairly boring. A pity, really: if you're going to indulge in a plate of stolid carbohydrate soaked in trans fats, you'd want to hope the flavour is worth it!

Possibly if I'd used my bigger pan after all, and spread the potato further, a thinner hash brown might have been less like plain mash. Also, if you want to get bacon crispy enough to crumble over something as a garnish, grilling seems to work best. You can always tip those delicious bacony juices into the potato pan afterwards.

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