Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ignoring my own advice: the wages of stubbornness

Earlier this month, in The Washington Post’s “Cooking Off the Cuff,” I wrote about a nice way of cooking potatoes – here. In that posting I warned, “I don’t recommend doing this with potatoes that are less firm than my Russian bananas [fingerlings]. Something like a russet potato cut into chunks would too readily fall apart, not that it wouldn’t taste good.”

Well, a couple of nights ago I ignored my own sage advice and took a chance: I used russets for what could have been a nice variation on that dish. I’d been to the farmers’ market and bought some of that charming spring garlic whose pearly white cloves have not yet formed the papery skins that separate them in the mature heads. I thought it would be lovely quartered and butter-glazed along with potatoes.

Those firm-fleshed fingerlings were no longer available, and I stubbornly went forward with the plan using cut-up russets from the supermarket, to which I added the garlic heads, quartered, and then cooked with chicken stock, butter and rosemary.

As I’d known perfectly well, the potatoes couldn’t stand up to this treatment; they were just too fragile by the time they were tender. So I took a fork and mashed everything up, coarsely. It looked like hell, but tasted fine. I can’t say I was disappointed, because I knew just what was going to happen. But I felt silly for having hoped, even for a moment, that my original advice had been over-cautious.

Here’s what I ought to have done: I should have glazed the garlic separately, then added it to potatoes I’d cooked in a different way.

Next time, perhaps I’ll pay attention to my own warnings.

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