Monday, November 23, 2009

New Thanksgiving Potatoes

My family has settled into certain traditions for Thanksgiving.

We all have a pre-Thanksgiving turkey meal the Sunday before Thanksgiving every year at church, which is a sort of dress rehearsal for our family's Thanksgiving. It's a dress rehearsal because my mom always makes the bulk of the meal and we loiter in the kitchen while she stirs and bastes and slices, taste-testing and being nuisances. (The gravy is always a fun point of contention.)

This year, as we discussed our church Thanksgiving meal, my mother dropped a bombshell: she was bored of mashed potatoes. Bored. Mashed potatoes. Bored!

My sister and I were pretty indignant. Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple! They are the perfect vehicle for a massive quantity of butter and heavy cream! My sister makes it every year!

Well, of course there was a reason for this sudden, startling revelation from my mother. She wanted Hasselback potatoes, which she had seen in a magazine. The Hasselbacks that she had seen were stuffed with thin slices of blue cheese (Mom, sister, and I all love- dearly, dearly love- cheese).

So my sister, instead of making her traditional gravy and mashed potatoes, will be making gravy and macaroni and cheese or deviled eggs (we all love both dishes). (We still had mashed potatoes at church- the old Koreans aren't ready for such a drastic change to their yearly meal!)

Since we needed to go to the store to prepare for everything that my mother would be making for our church Thanksgiving, I thought we should pick up a few waxy potatoes to experiment in making Hasselbacks. I don't remember ever having made Hasselback potatoes, but I recalled that they were usually made using waxy potatoes rather than starchy ones.

They were really good. We made them plain this time to get the full impact of what these potatoes are all about. We only bought four medium-sized waxy potatoes, and at my mother's insistence, also baked a Russet alongside (my mom loves Russets). I was skeptical about the starchy potato, but it was actually better than the waxy potatoes. Why is my mom always right??

Hasselback Potatoes

Sharp, sharp knife

Not many ingredients. I used kosher salt and unsalted butter- I don't normally use unsalted butter, but it's what I had leftover from the last time I baked. I used olive oil on the baking sheet, but it would probably be wiser to use a lighter oil that won't scorch in the oven. Preheat said oven to 350 degrees.

My mom has much, much better knife skills than I do, so she was in charge of cutting the slits into the potatoes. She took a pair of disposable chopsticks and put one chopstick on either side of the potato, using it to steady the spud and also as a guide so she wouldn't cut through the entire potato.

I think most recipes call for thin slices but not so thin as to inspire fear in a novice cook. My mother sliced thinly enough for me to know that I will never be able to mimic these. I picked this photo as proof that my momma isn't totally infallible- see the end of one potato that got sliced all the way through??

Pour oil on a small baking sheet and spread it around. I also took the oil left on my hands and rubbed it all over the potatoes. Then take a bit of butter and stick a few little nubs into some of the slits in the potato. I put the butter into every fourth or fifth slice. Sprinkle with salt- I tried to get some salt into each slice, but the super-thin slices made it pretty much impossible. Throw into the oven for anywhere from 40 - 60 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and give when you poke the bottoms with a knife.

Done. So good. Crispy and salty, they pull apart easily into beautiful slices. I'm going to add more butter to the Thanksgiving taters, and we're going to go with all-Russets.

We're also going to go with about ten pounds of potatoes, because I think the leftovers are perfect candidates for a very quick potato gratin- they're pretty much pre-sliced into perfect gratin widths and already cooked. Is there an easier way to make a gratin?? It would take no time at all, just however long the cheese takes to melt.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so there will be more Thanksgiving-themed posts to come. As well as photos from the church bonanza!