Three Starches

By Eugene Volokh  September 21, 2010 5:30 pm

Source: http://volokh.com/2010/09/21/three-starches/

I’ve never been that fond of the standard American starches, steamed rice or mashed potatoes — except when they have so much tasty stuff mixed into them that either (1) they’re a good deal less healthy, or at least (2) more time-consuming to make. But I recently tried some quinoa, and liked it very much, and it reminded me also how much I like buckwheat and couscous.

Couscous, of course, is basically just very small noodles, but I like it a lot more than spaghetti and similar noodles, perhaps because of its slightly more grainy consistency. Buckwheat and quinoa are functionally grains, much as barley would be, though they are botanically different enough that they are called “pseudo-cereals.”

I’ve eaten buckwheat all my life, since it’s a staple of Russian cooking (and is sometimes known to Americans, via the East European Jewish immigration, as “kasha,” which is just Russian for “cereal” generally). I might therefore be biased about it, but I find it has an interesting flavor, which I like much better than rice. Quinoa, an Andean grain, is a new discovery for me, but I like its flavor and its slightly crunchy consistency.

All three are also very easy to make. Couscous can be covered with the right amount of boiling water or stock and then set to absorb the liquid for several minutes. Buckwheat and quinoa would usually be boiled in water or stock for about 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. I’ve never had trouble with their sticking to the pot, which rice sometimes tends to do.

I would recommend that you make all of them with stock — whether from canned chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, boullion cubes, or prepared stock paste in a jar — rather than with water. Depending on the stock you use, you might not even need to salt them. In any case, if you haven’t tried them, you should.

Comments:

whit says: My grandmother used to make me kasha on frequent occasions. Heck, if I lived with her still, I’d probably be eating it several times a week. GREAT stuff. The general rule in nutrition is — the less you process it, the better. Following that rule, kasha is a natural. She makes it with an egg stirred in. and when she makes chicken soup, kasha is WAY better in it than conventional noodles or rice. great stuff

adam says: Agreed, though surprised that someone with a Russian background does not like potato or its derivatives. Have you tried Thai or Indonesian rice, which is more flavorful? Just put in a pot, add water until the rice is an inch deep and slowly cook until the water is gone. No sticking. Excellent texture.

cboldt says: – Couscous, of course, is basically just very small noodles – I didn’t know that, I thought is was lightly processed wheat grain (not noodles made from flour). I also took it as roughly synonymous with bulgar (wheat). As for small noodles, I think “risotto” for that. It’s not rice, it’s semolina flour noodles, in rice shaped pieces.

TA says: If you like those things, you might try farro and spelt, which are wheats.

Bleh says: Quinoa is also a complete protein. It’s pretty awesome.

Max Hailperin says: Given that we seem to have similar tastes, let me make two suggestions: (1) within quinoa, you might find the red quinoa even more reminiscent of buckwheat than the “plain” (yellow) quinoa is, and (2) before you totally give up on rice, try brown basmati (when you aren’t in a hurry).

Arkady says: Try mashed turnip sometime. Very tasty.

John Thacker says: When I think buckwheat, I think soba. That is all.

Anatid says: Cooking them with stock is the crucial part. The same is true when you are cooking dried beans. Starches, particularly processed starches like white rice where the seed coat has been removed, often have very little or very subtle natural flavor. To make the flavor more complex without nerfing the health properties, delve into your spice cabinet. Turn your rice into a pilaf with chicken stock, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and a tiny pinch of tarragon — add orzo for a more interesting texture. Maybe some sauteed onions. Depending on what type of salt you use, a very small amount of salt can still act as a flavor enhancer for the dish. For quinoa, try chicken stock, white pepper, a dash of cinnamon and allspice, and raisins folded in after it’s off the heat. My couscous usually winds up turning into tabouleh, which supplies plenty of flavor, but adding chicken boullion to the water makes a big difference. Add olive oil and lemon juice, chop in some tomato and parsley, and you’re golden. I was one of the cooks at my student co-op in college and I noticed that one of the major failings of some cooks was to cook couscous, beans, or quinoa in plain water. They come out flavorless that way, especially when you’re cooking to serve 60. When the dish is meant to be standalone, rather than as a vector for sauce (such as is usually the cause with pasta or plain white rice), you really need some kind of flavoring. cboldt: As for small noodles, I think “risotto” for that.It’s not rice, it’s semolina flour noodles, in rice shaped pieces. Risotto is customarily made from Arborio rice. Are you thinking of orzo?

Max Hailperin says: Oh yes, don’t overlook that couscous is available in whole wheat.

JPG says: Don’t forget to add black rice to your diet if you want to live forever (or somewhat closer to eternity). Not only is it easy to prepare, but it’s a great deal healthier than white rice. Black rice pudding is a classic for dessert.

leo marvin says: Needless to say, the apotheosis of kasha dishes is kasha varnishkes (not that I can vouch for the linked recipe).

Throbert McGee says: To this list of alternative starches, I would add millet seed — it cooks up to a very couscous-like texture and appearance, although not as quickly (takes about the same amount of time as rice). Not always easy to find in mainstream U.S. supermarkets, but very common in Asian groceries. And then there’s bulghur wheat, which makes an outstanding hot pilaf, although it’s probably a bit more familiar to Americans as the base for cold tabouleh salad.

William H. Stoddard says: I’ve even buckwheat in several forms, and always liked it; the form I find easiest to get now is soba, a type of Japanese noodle that strikes me as total comfort food. I find the flavor of quinoa slightly stronger than I like, but it’s a good alternate for rice; I’ve often made the substitution in my homemade version of dirty rice. On the subject of rice, Whole Foods now offers a couple of varieties of Thai red rice, which I recommend, not only because it has even more fiber than brown, but because of its excellent flavor.

Hans Bader says: What about Teff, from Ethiopia? It’s high in protein and other nutrients compared to most grains. It’s hard to come by, though, thanks to the backward transportational system and economy of Ethiopia, which results in even Ethiopian restaurants in the U.S. sometimes using substitutes for injera. If Ethiopia’s government let private citizens own rather than lease land, or otherwise deregulated its heavily-restricted economy, its production and availability might increase. (Government money that could be used on roads gets wasted on government monopolies that are inefficient and hidebound. Ethiopia’s official economic statistics paint a rosier picture of the country than reality, which is an economic growth rate typical of sub-Saharan Africa and a lower than average per capita income for sub-Saharan Africa).

cboldt says: – Risotto is customarily made from Arborio rice. Are you thinking of orzo? – No, I was thinking risotto, and have probably been in error for many years 😉 Now that you mention it, I have seen orzo. Maybe my bastardized misattribution (for risotto) comes from some podunk cook or waiter who, once upon a time, described risotto as either a pasta, or pasta-like. No matter, done decently, all of them are goodness.

tamerlane says: It’s usually expensive, but when you can get a special deal on it, “wild rice”, is an interesting starch variant even though it’s not really a grain at all. I’ve used a cooked mix of wild rice and rice to stuff a chicken. It soaked up a good deal of flavor in the process.

rtha says: Quinoa is good for breakfast, too — sometimes we’ll make a batch with just plain water, and the next morning you can chuck it in the microwave with a little milk, heat it up, add some dried fruit, honey, etc. And quinoa made with stock, and then cooled, is the basis for great salads: add black beans; corn; green onions; pine nuts. Toss it all with some olive oil and vinegar (or lemon or lime juice).

Throbert McGee says: To anatid’s recommendation of using some kind of broth instead of plain water, I would add this tip for cooking rice, buckwheat, millet, bulghur, etc: (1) Have your chicken bouillon (or whatever) ready at near-boiling temperature — two parts liquid (by volume) to one part grain. (2) Heat some oil or butter in a saucepan (over medium-high heat), add the dry grains, and stir constantly for 3–4 minutes to lightly toast the grain. (3) Pour all the near-boiling stock over the hot, dry grains — the liquid will immediately boil with vigor, then settle down, then return to a boil. Once it has returned to a boil, stir a few times, cover the pot, and reduce heat to low. Step two (i.e., pan-toasting the dry grains in fat before you add the water) helps develop the grain’s flavor, just as roasting does for nuts.

ptt says: If the stock you use is salty enough that you don’t need to add salt when cooking a grain, you should buy better stock.

BZ says: And perhaps most readers know this, but quinoa is usually pronounced as “keen wha”.

Allan Leedy says: Stock is best if made at home. Not much trouble: Chicken parts that otherwise go to waste (back, wingtips, neck, giblets), water, salt, peppercorns, aromatic veggies, maybe a bay leaf (or a bailiff) or two. Bring to a boil and cook for a while. Toss the solids. Skim the fat. Use, refrigerate or freeze. Incomparable.

Anatid says: Seconding Throbert’s suggestion to lightly fry the grains beforehand. It really develops the toasted flavor. Just make sure not to overdo them; light brown is good, dark brown is too far.

John Burgess says: Quinoa isn’t among my favs… just don’t care for the flavor much. I’d much rather go the millet route. Barley is just fine, but don’t forget oats… it doesn’t have to be pulverized then cooked into mush. Whole oats take about as much cooking as barley, but have a distinctive–and to me, very pleasant–flavor. Couscous isn’t exactly unprocessed, but according to Wiki it maintains a much higher level of nutrition than pasta. It also comes in a variety of sizes of pellet, from very small–as is the ‘norm’ in the Maghreb–to sizes up to the dimensions of a green pea. ‘Israeli couscous’ is toward the larger sizes and is made somewhat differently. BTW, for a linguistic touch, ‘Couscous’ is very much a N. African word. East of Suez, the word means ‘vulva’ and so Eastern Arabs use different words, like Maftoul to avoid snickers.

MDT says: What Throbert McGee said. At least, I have a way of dealing with basmati rice that’s like that (with some turmeric and cumin and salt) that is delicious IMO. I put diced potatoes in there too, but it works without. [Note to EV: Basmati rice is much more interesting than the standard-issue long-grain American sort.] Re couscous, I recently stumbled on “Israeli couscous,” quite a bit bigger than the standard kind (almost petite-pea-sized), and it’s very good. I’ve just been simmering it in broth with some whole spices and whatever herbs happen to be around; works nicely. ptt, you buy stock, rather than making your own? For shame! Kidding. There are good low-sodium chicken stocks out there. If the folks at Cook’s Illustrated are to be believed, there’s really nothing like their homemade beef broth (made with some impossible quantity of beef — I read that article and shelved it), but they gave grudging approval to a couple of commercial products in the last issue.

Anatid says: I’ve stopped eating American long-grain rice entirely. My pantry contains wild rice, long grain brown rice, sushi rice, short-grain calrose rice, basmati rice, and arborio rice. Each has a distinctive flavor and texture. I’ve been unable to think of a single use for American long-grain that can’t be better accomplished with a different type of rice.

Debrah says: Such great cooking tips…..since I really don’t cook very much. However, my gourmet salads are a decorator’s delight. Since none other than EV offers up a recipe, I might be compelled to try it. It should be noted (from someone who could easily become a vegetarian if not for the occasional strong desire for a good piece of rare meat…..“with a good Chianti”….a…la Hannibal Lechter)…… …….if you will design your diet around vegetables, grains, and pasta…..and away from sugar and meat…..you will have no trouble at all staying thin. No silly diet regimens required!

Gulf Coast Bandit says: I find it very meta that while this discussion was happening, I was eating couscous for dinner. Carry on.

Artie Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland says: What’s with all this commie socialist foreign “starch” stuff? Potatoes is American food. Them is what Americans eat. A little spaghetti or rice once in a while is OK. But Americans eat potatoes. This blog used to be for Americans, before so-called “diversity” and liberals took over.

DNJ says: I really like quinoa salad — with eggs, peas, spring onions, celery and garlic. It’s nice both hot and cold.

Debrah says: Artie Lee Wayne Jim-Bob dah-ling– Russian and Eastern European haute cuisine is so sexy! Try the recipe……just once. Then you might wish to move on to black currant. Life will never be the same.

riptide says: You just need a rice cooker for your rice. Put rice and water in, 25 minutes rice comes out. No fuss, no muss.

Ilya Gerner says: Upon immigrating to the US my parents were rather surprised to see buckwheat used as a pillow stuffer rather than as a food staple. Just saying.

PJens says: Please try oatmeal and oat bran. Besides the conventional warm wet cereal form, this grain is excellent in breads, cookies, muffins, pies and torts. Oh, and lets not forget Oat Stout Beer! Starch with happiness 🙂

Artie Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland says: Debrah I’m a American. I don’t want anything to change, except taking our America back, which means getting rid of all the commie socialist claptrap, which means just about everything since about ’64, when them hippies started whining and everything done started to go to liberal hell. You want a recipe? Big piece of meat, big ol’ baked potato (or mashed with gravy), a piece of pie and, this being America, another piece of that pie. Woman at the stove or man at the grill. What God done intended.

PersonFromPorlock says: As alternatives to potatoes, consider rutabaga (AKA ‘swedes’) and parsnips. Lots of flavor, although rutabaga is a pain to peel.

Dave Ruddell says: And perhaps most readers know this, but quinoa is usually pronounced as “keen wha”. Oh yeah, I mispronounced the word for years (kwin-oh-ah). I mean, how would you know until you hear it?

Connie says: Boil the peeled rutabagas with potatoes (about a 1:2 ratio) & smash to get mashed rutatatoes. Extra nutrition AND flavor.

Sandy MacHoots says: If you haven’t enjoyed hominy grits, you haven’t sampled the best American starch. Superb with everything from salt and pepper to coconut curry.

roy says: I often dump couscous into soup. The resulting consistency ranges from “soup with little noodles in it”, to “porridge-like”, to “masonry”. Also: brown rice and pearled barley cooked together in strong beef broth, along with a lot of chopped garlic. Add pepper. Very hearty.

leo marvin says: Artie Lee, I share the sensibilities, especially your refusal to cede potatoes to those vodka-soaked commies. Screw corn. Nice, if none too subtle, disguise, btw. Scary that anyone took it seriously.

anguslander says: The arrogance, Volokh! Nix v. Hedden stands unambiguously for the functionalist classification of foodstuffs — a functional grain is a grain. Where’s your deference, you Natural Kind Prescriptivist?!

Laura(southernxyl) says: Allan Leedy: Stock is best if made at home. Not much trouble: Chicken parts that otherwise go to waste (back, wingtips, neck, giblets), water, salt, peppercorns, aromatic veggies, maybe a bay leaf (or a bailiff) or two. Bring to a boil and cook for a while. Toss the solids. Skim the fat. Use, refrigerate or freeze. Incomparable. Yeah, I was wondering about the canned stock and bouillon cubes. I pour mine up using a measuring cup, a cup at a time, into freezer bags or even regular sandwich bags, push all the air out and seal, and put them in the freezer. Very convenient when you want to cook with it. You control exactly how much salt and everything else is in it, and you know each bag has one cup. BTW, if you do this kind of thing, a Sharpie in the kitchen is a good idea. Write the date on the bag and then you don’t have to guess how old it is.

Former fan of kasha says: I love the taste of plain kasha (i.e., whole buckwheat groats cooked in boiling water) and for a while, years ago, I used to cook quite a bit of it at home (as part of a health food regimen). But I was kind of turned off by two problems I would occasionally encounter. 1) Every once in a while something that wasn’t kasha would appear in my cooked kasha. (The kasha was cooked from groats that were packaged in a small box.) If I remember correctly, the something was gray and shiveled and was the size and consistency of a small piece of mushroom. (Maybe it some kind of insect cocoon?) Whatever it was, it was hard to spot and screen out in the uncooked kasha. 2) Occasionally while eating the kasha that I cooked, I would bite into a very off-tasting (“rancid”?) groat (or, maybe, worse?). If I remember correctly, this kind of offending groat (or whatever it was) was hard to spot and screen out even in the cooked kasha. Has anyone else encountered either of these problems?

ptt says: MDT: ptt, you buy stock, rather than making your own? My advice was directed at those using salty stock which obviously means store-bought (unless they’re bad cooks). We use store-bought about half the time. MDT: If the folks at Cook’s Illustrated are to be believed, there’s really nothing like their homemade beef broth (made with some impossible quantity of beef — I read that article and shelved it) Believe them. And the same is true about consome. Guilt about the amount of meat used to produce the broth is alleviated somewhat if you have dogs. The left over meat makes great kibble-enhancer.

Debrah says: Artie dah-ling– Move away from the grill……slowly. Carefully descend into the aromatic ecstasy of Elariia’s Burro Di Karité con Latte di Mandorla Dolce spa bath for “hombres”. Put on your game face. Nothing physically intrusive. Just a splash of Bleu de Chanel for red meat men? Perhaps an assertive Envy-ous spray? Or the pedantic release of a Gentleman on steroids? Whatever carnivorous mood surfaces. But don’t forget a sprig of arugula between the teeth. Women love a sense of danger.

Artie Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland says: leo marvin: Screw corn. Corn’s fine. For whiskey, or popping for the young’uns. Other than that, you’re right, screw it. Besides, corn ain’t no starch, unless you plan to point me to chapter and verse in the Good Book.

Artie Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland says: Debrah: Artie dah-ling– Move away from the grill……slowly. Carefully descend into the aromatic ecstasy of Elariia’s Burro Di Karité con Latte di Mandorla Dolce spa bath for “hombres”. Lookie here, Debrah You seem like a nice woman and all, but you need to cut out that illegal alien Mexican-speaking stuff and focus on the matter at hand. This is America. We eat American food. Meat. Potatoes. Pie. Beer. Russian noodly things? That’s purebred Communist, honey, in case you were too young to remember when ol’ Ronnie whupped them Russkies. (I can understand why this Volokh fella would have a taste for it, him being born commie and all, and I don’t blame him for it because a child is naturally gonna follow his mama but there is a reason them people ain’t eligible for President.) Couse-couse? Israeli couse-couse? Look, we need them people for our strategical national security, and for End Times purposes, but propping them up is a far cry from eating their damned food. Quinoa? Hell, I can tell that’s foreign socialist right there even without knowing what it is exactly. Buckwheat? Why, that ain’t fit for no one but the . . . well, let’s just say it won’t be at our table. You want danger, darlin’? Put a little hot sauce on your steak, or try to navigate the pickup home after throwing back a few at Bob’s Country Bunker.

Byomtov says: I vaguely recall that quinoa is not technically a grain at all, and is kosher for Passover. Another good choice, for me, is bulgar (bulgher?) wheat, which is easy to cook, and does very well when mixed with onions, mushrooms, etc.

Alex says: I’m also an admirer of couscous and quinoa. But, at the risk of being culturally insensitive and presumptuous, am I wrong to speculate that your aversion to rice is because you’re cooking it in a “Western” manner? Being of Chinese ethnicity, I grew up on jasmine rice. If cooked right, it’s flavorful, aromatic, easy to eat, does not stick to the pot, and is a perfect base for any meal. And cooking it right is easy — one level removed from boiling water. Steps: 1) rinse the rice in the pot you’re making it in until the water is clear; 2) fill the pot with water until the water level is double the height of the rice in the pot (it’s fine to measure roughly with your finger as a guide); 3) heat to a boil on the stove on high heat; 4) just as the water boils, turn off the heat and let the pot sit for 7 or 8 minutes on the stove; 5) fluff and enjoy the rice. I should also note that not all rice brands are created equal and different families have their favorites. The difference between them is the strength of their aromatic qualities, which really enhances the eating experience. I’d suggest heading to a nearby asian food store, asking the person at the counter for a bag of the rice they use at home, and go with that.

Throbert McGee says: Sandy MacHoots: If you haven’t enjoyed hominy grits, you haven’t sampled the best American starch. Superb with everything from salt and pepper to coconut curry. I second this recommendation for “hominy grits”, which are not just a Southrin breakfast food — you can use grits in pretty much any recipe for homemade polenta, in place of regular cornmeal. Note that “hominy grits” and “cornmeal” are both made by grinding the seeds of the same domesticated grass species, Zea mays, a.k.a. “maize” or “corn.” What turns plain ol’ corn kernels into “hominy” is a boiling-hot bath in an alkaline solution, which has the effect of making certain nutrients in the corn more easily absorbed by the human digestive system — most notably niacin. So the case of hominy vs. cornmeal is definitely an exception to whit’s remark at the top of the thread, that “The general rule in nutrition is — the less you process it, the better.” (Another exception, while we’re on the subject of starches, is cassava root, also called manioc or by its Spanish name yuca — raw, it contains compounds that are converted to cyanide when eaten! But the processes of fermentation and/or cooking will reduce the cyanide content to non-toxic trace levels.)

Debrah says: Artie Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland: Lookie here, Debrah You seem like a nice woman and all, but you need to cut out that illegal alien Mexican-speaking stuff and focus on the matter at hand. This is America. We eat American food. Meat. Potatoes. Pie. Beer. Nothing gets past you, does it Artie Lee Wayne Jim-Bob? Thought if I pushed some Eye-talian bath creme in front of you, and dropped the uomini for the hombres, I’d get all those illegal aliens across the border without you seeing them! In any case, I think you’re too hard on Eugene. He’s a righteous dude who’s trying to make a better world for the cocina-challenged. Anyway, Volokh sounds deliciously like smooth vodka…….and that can’t be bad. :>)

Ariel says: Prof. Volokh, If you want some substitutes while sticking to somewhat mainstream items and being more healthy, here’s what I’d suggest: Potatoes: Sweet Potatoes, Butternut Squash. Both have a lot more flavor and are comparably difficult to make. If you cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, you can put a touch of honey and maybe Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), and cook at 350 for however long it takes. Alternatively, you can just increase your intake of beets or carrots, both of which are starchy but have more vitamins. Rice: Brown Basmati, Brown Jasmine, or Nishiki’s brown rice are all healthier alternatives that should be available in at least Asian grocery stores, if not others. Instead of using two volumes of water (as you would for white rice), for brown rice, you should use three volumes. You should expect brown rice to cook essentially forever — about an hour or so in a typical rice cooker. You can buy high end rice cookers that will essentially pressure cook brown rice to have it done more quickly, but I have never tried those. Two tasty rice recipes: Moroccan rice — rice, EVOO, salt, saffron, water — in rice cooker until it’s done. Separately, caramelize onions, and lightly fry raisins and almonds. Fold these into the rice after it’s cooked. Mexican rice — toast the rice lightly. Throw into rice cooker with salt, water, and some tomato sauce (subtracting its volume from the water).

Fub says: Eugene Volokh wrote: I’ve never been that fond of the standard American starches, steamed rice or mashed potatoes — except when they have so much tasty stuff mixed into them that either (1) they’re a good deal less healthy, or at least (2) more time-consuming to make. But I recently tried some quinoa, and liked it very much, and it reminded me also how much I like buckwheat and couscous. For a tuber with distinctive flavor, and very like potatoes to prepare, try some Jerusalem Artichoke. It’s neither an artichoke, nor is its name etymologically related to anything middle eastern. It cooks more or less like a potato, and tastes like an artichoke, only moreso. The tubers do not keep well at all in air. They dehydrate rapidly once out of the ground. They are sometimes sold commercially packaged in a carton full of water. Dig them up with the water already simmering if you intend to boil them. They grow very easily. Just plant some seeds. They’ll come back every year with a little encouragement, like leaving a few tubers in the ground. They make a not unreasonable ornamental, more or less like sunflowers (to which the plant is related), about as tall but with flowers about the size of daisies. And they are absolutely delicious.

KenMasters says: I just discover quinoa a week ago from an old hippy friend. He informed me that it was even more “magical” under certain “influences.” I’m assuming I should be glad than that I’ll still be living in California come November 2: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/09/16/prop-19-how-legalized-marijuana-could-affect-california-and-the-u-s/

tautala says: If you ever find yourself in Hawaii, try taro or ulu. After being boiled, cook them for 15 minutes in coconut milk and onions.

Litigator London says: I suggest that the important thing about Cous-Cous (aka Bulgur) is that it is best not boiled but steamed. After washing the quantity one wishes to prepare in several changes of water to remove and chaff or grit, it should be left in a bowl of salted water to swell up. It should then be enrobed in a mixture of melted butter and oil. Then it should be steamed in a double boiler (aka Cocousière), preferably over the ingredients it will be served with, as in Cous-Cous Royale (for which there are recipes on line).

Dennis Nicholls says: Mashed potatoes require extra work and give you extra blandness. A simple oven-roasted potato has much better flavor and fewer added “bad” ingredients. Scrub your potato well, then slice it in two, then slice each half in two. Cut these slices into approx. 1? long pieces and throw into a baking pan. Drizzle with olive or canola oil, then toss by hand to evenly coat the pieces with oil. Arrange in pan with skin sides down, add pepper to taste. Roast in 350 deg. oven for about an hour, until cut edges brown. They will not stick to the pan if you put the skin sides down. Cutting them up small helps roast out some of the water — a potato has a huge amount of water which contributes to their image as mushy. For this reason, when making hash browns it’s important to squeeze out the water after shredding the potato. Disclosure: I live in Idaho.

dearieme says: “For a tuber with distinctive flavor, and very like potatoes to prepare, try some Jerusalem Artichoke.” We grow them — they make wonderful winter soup. But make it 50% potato, unless you are remarkably unfartprone.

whit says: Throbert McGee: To anatid’s recommendation of using some kind of broth instead of plain water, I would add this tip for cooking rice, buckwheat, millet, bulghur, etc: (1) Have your chicken bouillon (or whatever) ready at near-boiling temperature — two parts liquid (by volume) to one part grain. (2) Heat some oil or butter in a saucepan (over medium-high heat), add the dry grains, and stir constantly for 3–4 minutes to lightly toast the grain. (3) Pour all the near-boiling stock over the hot, dry grains — the liquid will immediately boil with vigor, then settle down, then return to a boil. Once it has returned to a boil, stir a few times, cover the pot, and reduce heat to low.Step two (i.e., pan-toasting the dry grains in fat before you add the water) helps develop the grain’s flavor, just as roasting does for nuts. fwiw, chicken stock is REMARKABLY easy to make, keeps for a long time in the freezer, and is a staple of cooking. I buy those pre-roasted chickens all the time (actually my wife does) because it’s an easy way to get tons of high quality protein. Sometimes, I will also roast them myself. Regardless, once I’ve flayed all the meat (pretty much) from the bones, and given my cats their fair share, it’s Make the Stock ™ time. there are tons of recipes on the net, so I’ll spare you mine, but no home is complete without chicken stock in the freezer.

David Chesler says: I cook rice (white or brown) in a microwave cooker. This works as a low-pressure pressure cooker. It never burns and never sticks. As with stove-top, you might need to find the best numbers for water ratio and time, but it has a much greater margin of error. If the water hasn’t been completely absorbed it’s easy to steam it a few more minutes, also it’s possible to add more water to get the texture better. Brown of course takes longer to cook.

Ilec says: Two words — Barley Risotto

lucia says: Throbert McGee: Step two (i.e., pan-toasting the dry grains in fat before you add the water) helps develop the grain’s flavor, just as roasting does for nuts. That’s the method the maids taught my mother in Latin America, and she taught us. You can start by sauteeing onions, then adding the rice and then pouring in the very hot stock. I heat the stock in the microwave while pan roasting the rice. That works well. This is the way to cook rice if you like individual grains (not creamy or sticky.)

Laura(southernxyl) says: Potatoes: Sweet Potatoes, Butternut Squash. Both have a lot more flavor and are comparably difficult to make. Sweet potatoes are difficult? I must not be doing it right. Microwave -> wrap in foil and split open -> dab of butter and black pepper.

1040 says: tautala: After being boiled, cook them for 15 minutes in coconut milk and onions. i find that my ability to cook anything is dramatically limited after being boiled.

b.b. says: Actually potatoes, with skin and all, are a nearly perfect food. You can eat just potatoes and live quite well without illness — proteins and carbs, vitamin c, b vitamins, etc., See the book “Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent” (nevermind the pompous title.)

Byomtov says: I strongly endorse Dennis Nicholls’ recipe for roasting potatoes,(3:08 AM) but recommend adding some kind of salt with big crystals.

Just Dropping By says: This post and many of the subsequent comments are making me think of the “Maybe she’s got a startch fetish,” line from the movie Big Night (a film I highly recommend if you want to see some incredibly beautiful Italian cooking).

RV says: I just recently discovered quinoa (the red kind) and was very impressed. I too frequently go to pasta or noodles or rice b/c they are so quick and easy to cook. Quinoa is just as easy, much more flavorful, and better for you. I love all the hints for different ways to prepare it. Unfortunately, my heretic boyfriend doesn’t like baked potatoes, which I prepare similarly to Dennis Nicholls and Byomtov, just scrub it, coat in olive oil and kosher salt, and cook it whole right on the oven rack. Sweet potatoes can be cooked similarly, or just diced, steamed, and mashed. For those of you who are speaking ill of corn, you obviously haven’t lived in the midwest in the summer (fresh, sweet corn is possibly the best food ever).

Chris Travers says: Arkady: Try mashed turnip sometime. Very tasty. My favorite is 50/50 mashed turnips and potatoes. It’s a traditional Scottish dish. Fub: For a tuber with distinctive flavor, and very like potatoes to prepare, try some Jerusalem Artichoke. It’s neither an artichoke, nor is its name etymologically related to anything middle eastern. Jerusalem Artichokes are great too. I enjoy eating them raw sliced like cucumbers. And they are very easy to grow. I’ve also gotten quite a bit into cooking with masa (it’s sort of like a hominy flour). One other note: if you are physically able and hard-working, you can make fettucine from scratch (flour, eggs, water, olive oil, salt) FASTER than you can out of a box (if you can get the noodles done by the time the water boils, they cook faster than dried noodles). It’s a challenge and takes some practice but you get nothing like the store-bought noodles.

Arthur Kirkland says: 1040: i find that my ability to cook anything is dramatically limited after being boiled. The copy desk applauds your keen eye! Your prize, a vat of cooking wine, is on the way.

Alessandra says: Artie Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland: Couse-couse? Thread winner. David Chesler: I cook rice (white or brown) in a microwave cooker. Gross. Dennis Nicholls: A simple oven-roasted potato has much better flavor and fewer added “bad” ingredients. Potatoes made in just about any way without being drenched in frying oil are almost guaranteed to be amazing. And oven-roasted or baked in just about any good recipe… hmmm

Artie Ray Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland says: b.b.: Actually potatoes, with skin and all, are a nearly perfect food. Now you’re talkin’! I was getting worried about the ol’ USA, especially after someone started yapping about Jerusalem artychokes even after it was pointed out that American food is meat and potatoes, not meat and queenoah or couse-couse or whatever some socialist lifestyle mindset tries to impose on our way of life. Here’s a man what knows what he’s talking about. Potatoes is dang near perfect, scientifically proved and Biblically approved. Enough said. Potatoes it is. Now get to learning to cook ‘em, Debrah, and you’ll be all set. (Yes, that’s a jab at all the men bragging here about their fancy ways with cooking. Taint nothin’ to brag about fellas, regardless of whether you don’t have women to do the cooking — for whatever reason. Don’t ask and don’t tell, I always say. Since about ’72 or so, anyway.)

Artie Ray Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland says: Alessandra: Potatoes made in just about any way without being drenched in frying oil are almost guaranteed to be amazing. This Alessandra gal is spot-on, as usual. Potatoes, especially Freedom Fries, is American food. Or mashed, hash browned, baked, whatever. Plenty of “diversity.”

Leave a Reply