Key Temperatures in Cooking (part 7) - Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

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Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

This simple mashed potato recipe uses the microwave for cooking the potatoes. If you’re in the anti-microwave category, consider this: cooking a potato—or any other starchy root vegetable—requires gelatinizing the starches in the vegetable. For this to occur, two things need to happen: the starch granules need to get hot enough to literally melt, and they need to be exposed to water so that the granules absorb and swell up, which causes the texture of the tissue to change. Luckily, the temperature at which most starches undergo the gelatinization process is below the boiling point of water, and there’s enough water naturally present in potatoes for this to happen without any intervention needed. Try popping a sweet potato in your microwave for a few minutes—fast, easy, and healthy!

Microwave until cooked, about six minutes:

3 to 4 medium (600g) red potatoes

After cooking, cut the potatoes into small pieces that can be mashed with the back of a fork. Add and mash together:

½ cup (120g) sour cream

⅓ cup (85g) milk

4 teaspoons (20g) butter

2 teaspoons (2g) finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

¼ teaspoon (1g) salt (2 large pinches)

¼ teaspoon (1g) ground pepper


  • For a tangy version, trying substituting plain yogurt for a portion of the sour cream.

  • Different types of potatoes have different amounts of starch. Varieties with high starch content (e.g., russets, the brown ones with rough skin) turn out lighter and fluffier when baked and are generally better for baked or mashed potatoes. Lower-starch varieties (red or yellow potatoes, typically smaller and smooth-skinned) hold their shape better and are better suited for applications in which you want the potato to stay intact, such as potato salad. Of course, there’s still a lot of room for personal preference. When it comes to mashed potatoes, I prefer a coarse texture to the creamy, perfectly smooth potatoes so often seen in movie scenes associated with Thanksgiving, so I tend to use red potatoes.

Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot’s Sweet Corn and Miso Soup

Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot write about their experiences with food on their blog (http://www.ideasinfood.com). A husband-and-wife team, they met while working at one of Boston’s premier restaurants, Clio, in 1997, and in recent years have run their own consulting business, educating chefs in new techniques and creative ideas.

How has having the blog changed your cooking?

It made us more meticulous about paying attention to what we were doing and recording recipes. People would constantly ask us questions, so we needed to have a good answer. Just throwing things in a pan and trying to explain that to someone else really didn’t work. Also, we get questions about a lot of different techniques, I think because we work with a lot of chefs. They’re more interested in how things work than they are with specific recipes.

Where does the inspiration for some of the more unusual approaches you blog about come from, such as using liquid nitrogen to freeze and shatter beets?

When you have stuff in your kitchen and you’re working with it, you just try. You try to figure out what you can do with it and what’s possible. With liquid nitrogen, back in science class they did the demonstration where they put the ball in the liquid nitrogen and then smashed it. So when you have it in your own kitchen, you try to break everything with it.

What advice would you give somebody who wants to learn to cook?

Really just to get in there and start cooking and not be afraid to fail. You probably learn more from failure than you do from success because when something goes right you don’t really think about how you did it or why it worked. But when something goes wrong and you have to fix it, then you learn a lot more about what’s happening.

Why do you think people have a fear of failure in the kitchen?

Because they have a fear of failure in life. Nobody wants to fail. Most people who are cooking at home and trying a new recipe are usually cooking for someone else. And if you screw up in the kitchen, it’s expensive—to ruin a whole thing of food and then you don’t have anything to eat? You have to have a sense of humor in the kitchen. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. You can always order a pizza.

Sweet Corn and Miso Soup

Cleaned squid

3 pounds (1360g) whole squid

Separate the heads and bodies of the squid. Rinse the bodies under cold water to clean the interior and exterior. Remove the cartilage piece from inside each squid body. When the bodies are clean, pat dry and reserve in the refrigerator. Rinse the squid heads under cold water to remove any gritty material. Lay each head on a cutting board with the tentacles extending to the left. Cut the eyes and interior beak off the righthand side of the head. Discard the beak and eyes. Reserve the tentacles in the refrigerator.

Calamari crackling

~⅔ cup (145g) cleaned squid tentacles

~⅓ cup (80g) cleaned squid bodies

1 teaspoon (5g) squid ink

2½ cups (260g) tapioca flour

6½ cups (1.5 liters) canola oil for frying


Purée the squid tentacles, bodies, and ink in a food processor until it forms a smooth paste. Add the tapioca flour and pulse the mixture to evenly combine the tapioca into the squid paste. Turn the machine on and purée the mixture to form a sticky dough. Divide the dough between two large vacuum bags and seal on high pressure.

Use a rolling pin to spread the dough to the inside edges of the bag so that a uniform thickness is achieved. The dough should be about 1/10″ / 2 mm thick. Place both bags in a steamer large enough to hold them and gently steam the dough for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the bags and cut them open. Carefully pull the dough out of the bags and lay it on dehydrator trays.

Dehydrate the sheets for several hours until the dough is completely dry and brittle. The dough will take on a shiny matte appearance. When the dough is dry, remove it from the dehydrator and break the sheet into pieces roughly 1½″ / 4 cm wide and 3″ / 8 cm long. This recipe makes more calamari crackers than are needed for the dish. You can reserve the dried cracker base in its dry form in a zip-top bag for several weeks.

In a medium-sized pot, heat 6 cups (1.5 liters) of canola oil to 350°F / 177°C. Slide the crackers two at a time into the oil. The crackers will sink to the bottom of the oil and then begin to puff and expand. Fry the crackling until it is completely puffed and there are no dark spots of unexpanded cracker dough. Remove the puffed cracklings from the oil and drain on a paper-towel-lined tray. Sprinkle with salt while still hot from the fryer.

Calamari couscous

~3½ cups (725g) cleaned squid bodies

5 cloves (20g) fresh garlic

Use a microplane grater to zest the garlic. Place the zested garlic and the cleaned squid bodies in a food processor. Purée the mixture into a coarse paste. When the mixture takes on a creamy texture and is almost homogenous, stop processing.

Heat a large, nonstick pan on medium heat. When the pan is heated, add the squid mixture. Stir the squid paste in the pan and continue to cook. The mixture will begin to stick to the pan. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan and keep the mixture from sticking.

Continue to cook and stir the mixture. The squid will begin to lose its creamy texture and begin to firm up and form small squid pieces, which will resemble cooked sausage. As the squid continues to cook, it will exude liquid. Continue to cook the squid, allowing the moisture to evaporate until the mixture is dry.

Remove from heat. Place the squid in a shallow pan sitting on an ice bath to cool it quickly. When the cooked squid is cold, place it a food processor. Pulse the food processor to chop the squid nuggets into fine granules resembling couscous. Reserve the calamari couscous in the refrigerator.

Broiled corn planks

8 ears of corn, with husks

Lay the corn out on a sheet tray and broil on high heat for five minutes on each side. The husks will blacken. Keep watch over the corn to make sure that they do not catch on fire. Let the corn cool on top of the stove for 10 minutes.

Peel the husks and the silk from the corn. Cut each piece of corn in half. Stand each piece up vertically on the cut end and, using a sharp knife, slice the kernels away from the cobs. They will come away in large pieces and loose kernels. Set aside the 16 largest chunks.

Cut the large pieces of corn into planks ¾″ / 2 cm wide and 2″ / 5 cm long. The width may be adjusted so that the planks are three kernels wide. Place on a small plate or tray, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. Reserve the trim with the rest of the corn kernels in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. Reserve the cobs for corn stock.

Corn stock

8 corncobs

½ cup (150g) white miso paste

~2 cups (250g) sliced onion

6½ cups (1.5 liters) water

Cut the top tip and bottom end off each corncob and discard. Cut each corncob in half. Combine the corncobs, miso, onion, and water in a 6-quart pressure cooker. Cook at high pressure for 25 minutes. Allow the pressure to dissipate naturally.

Alternatively, combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for one hour, skimming as needed. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain the finished stock through a fine mesh conical strainer. Chill and reserve until needed.

Prepare the corn soup:

5 cups (1150g) corn stock

~7 cups (975g) broiled corn

⅔ cup (200g) white miso paste

Combine the cold corn stock and miso in a bowl and whisk gently to blend. Add the broiled corn. Transfer batches of this mixture to the blender. Purée each batch until it is completely smooth. Strain the soup through a fine mesh conical strainer. Refrigerate the soup in a covered container until needed.

Sliced chives

1 cup (50g) chives

Slice the chives into very thin (1 mm) rounds. Reserve.


Place the soup in a large pot and gently bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Place the corn planks in a sauté pan over low heat and spoon several spoonfuls of warm soup over the planks. Gently cook until the planks are heated through, flipping once to make sure the top and bottom are both hot. In a small pot, heat the calamari couscous. Stir occasionally to prevent the couscous from sticking. When the couscous is hot, fold in the sliced chives.

In each bowl, stack two of the corn planks at the nine o’clock position extending into the center of the bowl. Spoon two spoonfuls of the calamari couscous on the inside edge of the bowl at the five o’clock position. Pour the soup into the bowls, leaving the second half of the top corn plank exposed. Place a calamari crackling on the edge of the bowl and the corn planks so that the corn planks are partially exposed and the crackling rests between the edge of the bowl and the corn planks. Serve immediately.

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