Thursday, 14 January 2010

Hot Potato Trick

by Kate
Living the Frugal Life

We grew 100 pounds of potatoes in 2009. A fair portion of them are still in our garage. We'll continue eating them up over the winter, aiming to have none left by the time the weather warms up and signals them to begin sprouting.

With so many potatoes available, you can be sure I feel some urgency about using them up. We eat them often. Anytime I fire up the oven to do any baking, I scrub a few potatoes and slip them in there to piggyback on whatever else I'm cooking. That just makes good sense to me, getting the most out of an appliance that uses enormous amounts of energy. But there's a little trick I use when baking potatoes that I thought was worth passing on.

Metal skewers for shish kabob or grilling help baked potatoes cook through faster. I always use these unless I know the oven's going to be on for a really long time anyway. I have found that a large potato is done about 10 minutes sooner when pierced by a skewer than when left alone. This is especially useful when I want to bake potatoes of different sizes. I use my skewers on the largest ones, and they all cook in the same time. It's also handy for potatoes of any size if the main dish in the oven is only going to take 30 minutes to cook. As a rule of thumb, potatoes take 45-60 minutes to bake in the oven. If I skewer the potatoes and put them in the oven as it warms up, and leave them in the oven as it cools down, most of them can still finish with a quick-cooking dish.

When using this trick, don't crowd the potatoes too tightly on the skewer. The reason this works is because the metal will conduct the heat of the oven into the center of the potato. But if the entire skewer is buried in one potato after another, it won't work. Space your potatoes out on the skewers, leaving a few inches between each one. If you don't have enough skewers for all the potatoes you want to cook, put the largest ones on the skewers first. The smaller ones will cook faster anyway.

I usually don't have anything specific in mind when I piggyback baked potatoes in this way. If need be, cooked potatoes will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. They're a great basis for soup, where the distinctive baked potato flavor will do far more for the soup than simply simmering raw cubed potatoes in broth. They're also likely to end up in a dish of pyttipanna, or Spanish tortilla de patatas, hash browns to go with breakfast, or simply as potato salad.

I love frugal hacks like this one. Have you got any to share? Let us know in the comments, please!