Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Potato Ways!

Potatoes have been around forever! Yes, forever, since 5000 BC. I guess that makes them vintage! One of the best pieces of history of the potato in the United States is a story about the Northern Pacific Railroad. It isn’t uncommon to think of food related companies promoting new recipes, but a railway?

Idaho remains the state that produces the most potatoes, and that was also true in the early 1900s. The Idaho baked potato was promoted by the Railroad in 1908 because one of the company’s dining car superintendents learned that the farmers couldn’t sell their crops because their potatoes were too large. They were being fed to the pigs because nobody knew what to do with a two-pound potato! That superintendent, Hazel Titus made arrangements to buy all those potatoes. The big potatoes had tuff skins and were difficult to peel or cook, but Titus knew how to bake them and scoop out the wonderfully fluffy, tender inside!

The “Great Big Baked Potato” was offered to travelers on the Northern Pacific line! Lots of advertising, marketing premiums including postcards and spoons, helped make it popular. There was even a 40-foot-long potato with lighted eyes that winked … mounted to the roof of one of the Railroad’s commissaries!

Baked potatoes are not a part of my childhood food memories. My mother boiled a big batch of little red skinned potatoes once a week and kept them in the refrigerator. She would peel what she needed for a meal and fry them. I suppose that was my dad’s favorite, because we had them a lot. Mother also made the best potato salad, the best au gratin potatoes … and mashed potatoes were a part of her standard menus, but never baked.

I married a man who was the typical ‘meat and potatoes’ Midwesterner, and he especially loved a baked potato. My affair with baked potatoes began then. I quickly researched the best ways to make the best baker. We wanted a crisp skin and a creamy interior. I found that rubbing oil on the potato and placing it directly on the oven rack was the method that proved true. Pierce the potato a few times so steam can escape. I bake my potatoes at 400 degrees. Depending upon their size, they can take an hour to be tender. If you want a soft skin, wrap them in foil.

When we bought our first microwave, it was so we could bake potatoes in just a few minutes. We used it for a while but returned to the conventional oven method!

We know that American pioneers baked potatoes by burying them in the coals of a wood fire. I guess I’m still a pioneer because I can’t build a wood cooking fire outside without tucking potatoes in the coals!

I’m guessing that the popular twice baked potato recipes became very popular in the 1960s. With exception of a recipe in a 1952 Slovak Women’s Society cookbook, I haven’t found reference to twice bakes in my earlier cookbooks. That doesn’t mean that home cooks weren’t using their extra baked potatoes like my mother used her extra boiled potatoes! I suspect they were twice baking long before the 1960s, but that is when it became popular to do so!

On another note, however, potato fritter recipes are found in cookbooks from the 1600s! (Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1585. It became a staple crop.)

The recipes I’m sharing in this post are two of my family’s favorites. Both recipes can be made with those extra baked potatoes or you can bake them specifically for these yummy spuds.

Potato Corn Fritters 

Mash 2 cups of left-over baked potatoes (or used mashed potatoes). Add 1 cup of corn kernels, 1 egg, ½ cup grated cheddar cheese, ¼ cup finely chopped onion, ¼ cup chopped green or red bell pepper and 1 Tablespoon chopped chili or jalapeƱo pepper. If your mixture seems a little too loose, add a Tablespoon of flour.

Fry these in small portions in canola oil, turning them once. Salt and pepper them as they fry. Remove to a paper towel to absorb excels oil.

These are delicious served with a salad … especially a wilted lettuce salad … or with a grilled cheese sandwich. You can also make small versions and serve as an appetizer.

Crab Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

To make these potatoes especially delicious, use two cans of crab meat. One can of pieces to mix into the potato and a second can of crab claw meat to place directly into the mid-top of each potato so everybody gets a big bite of crab meat.

You can use any kind of breadcrumbs in this recipe, but to make it closer to a ‘stuffed crab’ kind of flavor, use Old Bay seasoned crumbs. You can also use any kind of grated cheese, but a mild Gouda or Havarti is especially good.

To make 6 twice bakes, scoop out the flesh leaving a good shell that is thick enough to hold up to the second baking. To make the filling, add a small can of crab meat to the potatoes. Add ¼ cup finely chopped onion, ¼ cup finely chopped sweet red pepper, 1 ½ cup of bread crumbs, 1 cup of grated cheese, ½ cup sour cream and ¼ cup of soft butter … salt and pepper … a dash of garlic powder … and 2 eggs, one at a time. The eggs will make this filling nice and fluffy and will bind it together, but you don’t want the filling to be too loose. If it seems right after adding the first egg, don’t add the second one.

Fill the potato shells. Tuck a portion of the crab claw meat right on top in the middle. You can stop at this point or you can add additional cheese or breadcrumbs to the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If you are roasting meat at a higher temperature, go ahead and stick the twice bakes in the oven. Just check on them and you’ll know when they are done.

Enjoy these recipes as you remember to use potatoes in your daily menus. If time is valuable to you, bake extra potatoes on a weekend and use them in other ways during the week. I’ll be sharing this post with a couple blog parties, so make sure you check my sidebar so you can click through.

This post is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetables food project. If you want to see similar posts, just click the Vintage Vegetables page tab in the menu.

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