I Cannot Tell a Lie
Fine. Everyone once in a while I can’t cook for shit. I’ll have this great idea — not well thought out, clearly — and it absolutely backfires. As throwing out food is just wrong, I make the most of it and try to turn it into something edible. Here is take 923 on Gansie Kitchen Fuck-Ups.
Accidental Tater Tots-ish
Weekend morning breakfasts usually consist of scrambled eggs, half of a cream cheesed begal (with tomato in the summer) and skillet potatoes. I was feeling adventurous from too many days of not cooking and decided to try something new with the spuds.
My eyes set on some sort of version of hash browns, involving shredding about 5 small white potatoes and frying in some oil and butter with a seasoning of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and Bojangles french fry seasoning. In a hot, non-stick pan I spread the grated potatoes around to form an even layer. After about 5 minutes, I flipped the “cake” over and discovered a beautifully browned crust:
I was led to believe that this makeshift hash brown would turn out perfectly. After a few more minutes I peek underneath the other side to find another browned crust. But, the inside, that fucking inside, is still soft and gooey. I decide to lower the heat and put a lid on the hash brown. After another 10 minutes, I check and the inside, the death-of-me inside, is turning gummy.
Next idea: transfer the potato cake to a cast iron skillet and bake it in a 450 degree oven. After 20 minutes I check, yup, the inside is still not cooked. I flip the cake and bake for another 30 minutes.
Okay, this motherfucker is just not being cooked through.
Now I head back to the non-stick frying pan, add some more butter, and try to squeeze the not cooked insides out and let that hit the hot, buttered pan. It starts to work, but it’s simply impossible to get all of the insides to reach the surface:
I almost threw in the towel at this point. But after conferencing with 80 Proof, his desire for potatoes unwavering, I marched back to the kitchen to keep figuring out what to make of this gummy mess.
Okay, so the skillet isn’t working, the oven isn’t working…yes, it’s time for the full proof method of “deep” frying.
I slide the deformed cake pieces onto a cutting board. On a separate plate, I mix flour with a bit of salt and pepper. I chop the deformed potato into tater tot size. They are then drudged in the flour mixture:
This is all happening while a medium sized sauce pan in heating up vegetable oil. When that is hot enough, the tots are dropped in the oil in batches, then placed on papers towels to absorb the excess oil.
The potatoes at this point were edible, if not slightly enjoyable (doused with ketchup or dijon mustard.) They didn’t really taste like tater tots, but it was the only thing I could think of calling them that made them seem appetizing. It was really a coating of fried flour disguising a half-cooked, gummy potato mess.
Mid-point through this disaster, I remembered a Cook’s Illustrated recipe (subscription required) on the Swiss take on hash browns: Roesti. As I read all too late, the key in avoiding gumminess is: (1) Soaking the shredded potatoes in cold water to remove the starch (2) “Juicing” the potatoes in a kitchen towel to expel the most amount of water possible and (3) Tossing the potatoes with cornstarch to bound the shreds together.
Check back for round two: Gansie vs. Potato