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Potato Prep

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I have recently been making french fries by peeling, washing, and cutting the potatoes the day before and then leaving them in a water bath overnight. Before I fry them I put them through the spinner to remove excess liquid and then pat them dry. The result is a crisp french fry.

Would this type of prep benefit any other forms of potato dishes like mashed, roasted, sauteed, or gratinated? The idea is that if I have lots of prep to do I'd want to get things started the day before. If I leave my peeled potatoes in water over night would that adversely affect tomorrow night's bangers and mash? Thanks for the input.

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post #2 of 7
Hash browns can benefit from a similar treatment of eliminating excess surface starch. I often give them a quick rinse then WRING them out in a towel. They need to be fairly dry.

The french fry doesn't NEED an overnight soak A few 10s of minutes is sufficient.

Cook's Illustrated combines the soak with a par cook in their home fries. Start the cubed potato in a pot of cool water. Bring to a FULL boil, drain and into a pan with hot grease. The par cook washes off some starch and converts other surface starch so it takes on a great crust quickly in the hot pan. I've been pleased with the results. It might work for a rosti style dish as well, but I've not tried it. Or it could hinder a rosti too. Needs experimentation.

A gratin needs the starch to help bind the liquid. I've taken to doing a simmer of the sliced potatoes in the liquid before assembling. Watch it carfully so it doesn't boil and curdle. The liquid picks up the starch and thickens, the potatoes are par cooked and go in to the pan hot. This means the total cooking time is reduced so it doesn't curdle on me so much.

Mashed potatoes are best cooked whole and unpeeled. They retain more potato flavor but it's more work at the end. A food mill will remove most of the peel as you mash them in the mill. I let my available time dictate what method I use for making mashed potatoes.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 7
Soaking dilutes some of the potato's natural moisture, and allows the cook to remove a lot more moisture than (s)he would otherwise be able to. Dilution aids the cook in controlling the amount of starch, and reduces the bitterness in some types of potatoes.

More specifically:

Mashed: Not adverse, but waste of time. Just peel, cut into more efficiently sized pieces, and boil in well-seasoned water. Control the texture of your mashed by type of potato chose, and mashing method. I.e., ricer, food-mill, masher, etc. Riced (PITA) russets will net maximum fluffiness; smashed are a close second, and milled a very close third. I prefer smashed for the texture, as do most adults. A very common sin with smashing is overworking the spuds. Brings out the starch and makes 'em gummy. Another common sin is too little liquid. Never, never "whip" them with a mixer or whisk.

Roasted: Peel and soak for a little while. Overnight is not necessary. Dry the surface well, or the potato won't brown as nicely. A little oil is nice.

Sauteed: Most def'. Do just what you did. Glad you asked. You da bomb, girl.

Gratins: Hmmm. So many gratins, can't give a generic answer. If you relied on the natural potato starch to thicken the cream, you certainly wouldn't want to limit the surface starch. On the other hand, if you're mostly looking for a crisp, brown top -- then you would. Also depends somewhat on the potatoes chosen.

BDL
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Great, lots of info thanks. I should've asked a more simple question though so here it is. If I'm having a dinner party tomorrow and I'm serving mashed potatoes, can I peel my potatoes today to save on prep time tomorrow without jeopardizing a good mashed potato?

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #5 of 7
Overnight is really too long. Morning of is okay.

BDL
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Yea that's what I need to know, thanks. I figured that soaking potatoes overnight might mess up the starch a bit too much and it won't be good for roasting or mashing.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #7 of 7
My secret with French Fries is to let my potatoes sit out for some time. The reason is for the potato to lose it's moisture, not add to it. When thrown into the fat to fry, the potato cooks quicker and stays crisper without the excess spitting from the extra moisture.

Not saying it's perfect but it's an old method. My father (81) learned in college as a short order cook at the local tavern in a small farming town in Upstate NY. My father also makes the best scrambled eggs you've ever tasted by the way...never lost his touch!
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