December 6th, 2013
Q. Can I do the first blanch for fresh cut russet fries in the oven?
A. Technically the term “blanch” means to immerse in boiling water or other liquids, such as cooking oil.
So, you could partially oven roast, but it probably is going to brown the outside of the potatoes way before the inside gets cooked.
December 4th, 2013
Q. I think I need to get with the program and offer some value priced menu items to capture price conscious diners. Any suggestions?
A. Nothing beats a hearty baked Idaho® potato with sour cream, butter and chives. Many times this can be profitable on a 99 cents to $1.99 menu, depending on your concept. Upgrading to a loaded baked potato or one topped with chili is easy to do too. Value-conscious customers love potato nachos, stuffed potatoes and other ingredient filled menu items such as empanadas, meat pies, croquettes and potato pancakes made with hash browns or mashed potatoes. Being price sensitive means customers want to fill up, but still keep some money in their wallets or purses, and Idaho® potatoes fit this need very well. Here are some examples from our extensive recipe files:
December 2nd, 2013
Q. I have been to several of the same gourmet hamburger and fry chain locations and sometimes the French fries are really dark and unappetizing. How can that happen?
A. There is no way to make fresh cut fries perfectly consistent year round. If there was, it would put frozen potato processors out of business.
There are so many variables with fresh fries. When I look at an operation this is what I usually zero in on to find the problem:
- Did they purchase a potato that will fry? Russet Burbank, some of the yellow chipping potato varieties, etc? From Idaho?
- Raw product, does the potato have high solids (starch)?
- Was the potato stored too cold, turning starch to sugar?
- Were the potatoes cut, then rinsed to remove excess starch and sugars?
- Did the operator blanch (par boil in water or fry at a lower temperature than the finish fry) first?
- Were the blanched fries allowed to cool without being in a covered container? The steam released after cooking can fall back on the fries.
- Were the fries dry when placed into the fryer? Use a salad spinner or drain the fries over a metal grid to remove excess oil or moisture before frying.
- How full were the baskets? More fries means potatoes may not fry up crispy, takes longer to cook, and can end up being darker. Less fries in the basket will cook faster, and crisper.
- What is the temp of the fryer set at? 350 degrees F is ideal.
Finally, there is the human factor. Staff may have different opinions on what is a full or half full fry basket, or when is a fry done. We recommend operators take advantage of the free Idaho® Potato French fry wall chart that is bi-lingual, English and Spanish, and can be posted right next to the fryer area. It shows various fry colors also so an owner or chef can circle the preferred light or dark fry color to match with the fries being prepared.
There are a number of other posts by Dr. Potato on frying, potato varieties, re-conditioning, etc. Search for the terms you are looking for to find each article.
November 29th, 2013
Q. What happens if you pre-cook (blanch) fresh cut 3/8Inch potatoes 350 degrees, in lieu of the recommended 250 degrees?
A. Blanching at a higher temp can be done, Five Guys blanches at 345 degrees and finish fries at the same temp. Personally, I think this is part of the reason why guests receive their fries a little darker.
We typically recommend 325 degrees F for blanching.
The lower blanching temperatures of 250 degrees to 325 degrees allow the potatoes to cook up without turning brown.
November 25th, 2013
Q. I see you work with several food bloggers on creative ways to fix Idaho potatoes. Any suggestions on their best mashed potato recipes?
A. Idaho Food Bloggers transform mashed potato side dishes into spectacular spuds for the holidays or anytime. Here are some links to our favorite Idaho mashed potatoes:
Truffled Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Mushroom Bits
Pumpkin Dutchess Idaho® Potatoes
Herbed Idaho® Mashed Potatoes
Genius Potato, Turkey and Stuffing Layered Leftovers
And then, Food Bloggers make mashed potatoes gone wild:
Idaho® Mashed Potato Pops
Idaho® Potato Chicken and Pork Filled Papas Rellenas
Idaho® Potato-Asiago Cheese Muffins with Herbes de Provence
Beef Stew with Guinness Extra Stout
Idaho® Purple Peruvian Bonbons
November 25th, 2013
Q. I cut up vegetables and put them along with a chuck roast in a freezer bag, to have a meal ready for the crock pot when I had surgery. I took the bag out of the freezer last night, dumped the ingredients in the crock pot and refrigerated until this morning. It has been cooking on low for 5 hours and all of the potatoes are black. After researching, I found I should have blanched them first. Are they still good to eat?
A. Because you just put them into the freezer, the cell structure hasn’t broken down so while the visual looks bad, they are probably still safe to eat. Same thing happens to onions when frozen from raw. Will they still taste good? Not really. I hate to be the bearer of bad news. If I had any extra potatoes I would cut and sauté them and then add the pot roast to the pan to warm up together and toss the old potatoes. I often add some canned beef stock to flavor the potatoes at the last minute too.
November 22nd, 2013
Q. My family is not that keen on cornbread stuffing for the turkey, and I can’t find the recipe that the Idaho Potato Commission, posted once about using potatoes for stuffing. Any thoughts?
A. Potatoes for stuffing? You bet. Here is the story behind the recipe from Hudson’s on the Bend.. This is a hearty style stuffing that will give turkey or other fowl great flavor if cooked inside and is also tasty if cooked in a separate casserole with a little extra butter dabbed on top. This recipe uses pheasant and duck liver pate, but any good quality pate from the store will complement the stuffing. We always use lots of sage in our stuffing recipes. Depending on your personal taste you might want to hold a little sage to the side until you can taste the finished product and then make your final seasoning decision (I might add a little more). This recipe along with our other Thanksgiving recipes is more than enough for ten hungry family members and friends, with plenty left over for holiday weekend snacking. This recipe calls for a variety of exotic mushrooms; depending on the local supply you may need to use the dried variety. They should be rehydrated during the cooking process to obtain the richest flavor. Here is the recipe and a few more you might enjoy as well:
Stuffing with Idaho® Potatoes And Wild Mushroom And Country Pate [click to view]
And we have even more to share,
Idaho® Potato Lovers Stuffing [click to view]
Lemon-Sage Roast Chicken with Sausage-Mushroom-Idaho® Potato Stuffing [click to view]
November 22nd, 2013
Q. High prices on cartons of potatoes are killing me, what happened, versus last year at this same time?
A. It doesn’t always apply, but usually the laws of supply and demand have an effect on fresh produce pricing. Last year Idaho produced 8% more acreage than the year before. Nationally many growers rushed to get product to market, rather than incur the costs of putting their crop into storage (and incurring even more costs). The initial months after new harvest (usually August to October) the prices are very low, often below breakeven prices for potato growers.
Then something unusual happened at the end of the year. Some quality issues with stored potatoes not holding up as well as hoped caused a predicted pack out of No.1 potatoes to not grade as many as at the beginning of the crop year. This had the effect of tightening up the availability of Idaho® Russets at the same time as other states were running out of potatoes. Prices went up.
This year’s crop is back down in size, and while the prices are higher than last fall, potatoes are still an economical choice for your menu. While it’s important to look at the cost per carton, it is even more important to keep track of yields and the cost per potato.
The Idaho® Potato Commission “size guide” is an excellent resource, and it’s free. You can order one just by sending on your contact info and address. Click on the following links to download the Size Guide or our Foodservice Toolkit.
November 21st, 2013
Q. I have read on some of your posts to not over mix my mashed potatoes and to use the Russet Burbank variety, as they can withstand some abuse and not turn gluey. My boyfriend doesn’t like lumpy mashed potatoes. Is there a recipe I can surprise him with for Thanksgiving?
A. Yes, we have several. Chef David Burke of NYC shared this one a few years ago, but it is still one of my favorites. Whipped Idaho potatoes with basil oil:
Whipped Idaho® Potatoes with Basil Oil [click to view]