Yesterday. Dinner preparation. S., who is about
twenty and a student at Seattle University and who
hails from Sheridan, Wyoming (pop. 22,000) asked if
he could help with anything. I said, "Sure. Peel potatoes."
His response: "How do you peel potatoes? I've never
done it before. My parents don't cook."
My question: how does one get to be twenty, travel halfway
across the prairie and over mountain ranges
in order to study philosophy et al., never having
peeled a single potato?! So I taught S. how to
peel potatoes (remove any green discoloration!),
how to cut them into evenly sized chunks for cooking,
told him to start with cold water in the pan, a bit
of salt, bring to a boil, etc. He did it like a champ.
A bit later I employed his youthful enthusiasm once again
when the cream needed whipping, and he did it by hand
with just a whisk. I truly believe that it's important,
when learning to cook, to feel, kinesthetically,
how each particular food reacts to your manipulation of it.
For example, how the cream slowly loses fluidity, gains mass.
I believe in peeling a potato, or an apple, with a paring
knife, so that I can feel the curve of the fruit, feel
the skin releasing with each downward stroke.
When I make pie dough, I close my eyes once I begin
to use my hands on it, flattening a disc for the rolling pin.
It's velvet in my fingers, pliable and smooth,
with an expiration date (= toughness) if it's overworked.
Every gadget, every electrical appliance one introduces
into the preparation of food further removes the human
from the sustenance. Ah...I digress. All I wanted
was to peel a potato. Actually, S. peeled the potatoes,
and not long after that, we sat at the table and feasted.
Here's the potato recipe:
Mashed Potatoes with Manchego & Olive Oil
by Jose Andres, Food & Wine Magazine
His tip: "Add the olive oil slowly to the potatoes because if you dump it in all at once, you’ll get streaks of oil."
2 heads of garlic, top third of each cut off
1/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
6 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
3 cups heavy cream, heated
1/2 pound young Manchego cheese, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Preheat the oven to 350°. Stand the garlic on a large sheet
of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle with oil and wrap in the foil.
Bake for about 1 hour, until the garlic is very soft.
Squeeze the soft cloves from the skins into a small bowl
and mash with a fork. Meanwhile, bring the potatoes
to a boil in a large pot of water. Salt the water
and boil over moderately high heat until tender,
about 20 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.
Shake the pot over moderately high heat for 1 minute
to dry the potatoes. Mash the potatoes, then mash in half
of the hot cream. Add the remaining cream and mash again.
Stir in the Manchego to melt, then slowly stir in the mashed
garlic and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt
and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining
1 tablespoon of olive oil and serve.