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Native Cooking

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When most people today think of a comfort food, the one most frequently
mentioned is potatoes. In fact, in many studies, potatoes rank right up
there as most satisfying to stave off hunger. Not surprising. An average
size potato contains about 220 calories and absolutely no fat. Funny thing
is that about 40 years ago people thought they were fattening so they would
put the baked potato aside and eat a big fat steak erroneously thinking
they were watching their weight. A potato contains a lot of potassium,
about 844 mg - about twice as much as a banana. They contain a lot of
vitamin C and B6 too.

Potassium is what maintains the fluid balance and the electrolyte balance
in our cells. It helps blood pressure and heart function as well. Both
vitamin B6 and vitamin C help boost the immune system. Potatoes also
contain fiber and that is vital to protect against colon cancer.

Growing up I was told that all the nutritional value of a potato was in its
skin. I love baked potato skins. I still think it is all right to eat them
if you've grown them yourself or if you know for certain that they weren't
sprayed with a chemical. Just be sure to wash them well. I am often tempted
to slather them with butter, sour cream and chive. Not good, instead I use
olive oil and non-fat butter flakes. There is also plain yogurt and chives
for a change.

Potato-Mushroom-Sausage Pancakes

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 pound Shiitaake mushrooms, sliced thin

4 ounces breakfast sausage, cut in 1/4-inch slices

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

6 large potatoes, peeled

1 medium onion, chopped fine

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

6 eggs, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

Corn or peanut oil for frying

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add
mushrooms, sausage, and fennel, saute until mushrooms are tender. Put this
mixture in a large bowl and set aside. Use a hand grater with large holes
to grate the potatoes into a colander that is placed in another large bowl,
press the liquid out of the potatoes.

Place drained potatoes into the bowl with the sausage and mushrooms. Add
the onion, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well. Put about 2
tablespoons of oil, corn or peanut, in a large saute pan over medium-high
heat. When good and hot, drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture in the hot
oil. Do just a few at a time - they will be greasy if crowded. Cook about
five minutes per side and drain on paper towels. Repeat process until all
the batter is gone, adding more oil to the pan as needed. For a variation,
try adding a 1/2 cup of grated cheese to mix before frying.

Sometimes I cheat and use instant potatoes in a pinch. If you have some
left over, they can come in very handy for a number of recipes. Use for Cod
cakes, potato fritters, Shepherd's pie topping, layer with mashed sweet
potatoes or thicken a soup. Once you try it you'll come up with your own
great ideas. Please share!

Potato Salad

6 cups of cooked potatoes (new, red, yellow) peeled or not, cooked to firm
and not mushy

1 small to medium onion, minced

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 tablespoons vinaigrette or Italian dressing

1/4 cup mayonnaise (or substitute low-fat)

1/4 cup sour cream (or substitute)

Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the potatoes thin into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients
and chill for a couple of hours before serving. If you like it fancier, add
dried or fresh chive, parsley or paprika.

Roasted Potato Appetizer

6 Russet or Idaho baking potatoes

Coarse or fresh ground salt

Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 large clove garlic

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash potatoes, peel skin, leaving on a layer
of flesh, in 1/2-inch strips. Put extra potato flesh in cold water for
another use. Put the strips skin-side up on a greased cookie sheet and bake
for 20 minutes. Sprinkle or toss with salt and set aside to cool. (You can
make these a day ahead and reheat in 450 degree oven for five minutes).

Now using a food processor or blender put all the dip ingredients together
and blend until smooth. Chill for two hours or overnight to meld flavors.

Notes & Tips

Stinky puppy? Next time your dog comes in wet from the rain, use a dryer
sheet and your dog will smell better.

Don't throw out old magazines. Save them for elders who are rural or in a
nursing home. They will really enjoy them.

When you find out all the things you are not, have the courage to leave it
alone and enhance what you are.

I want to thank all of you who have sent in suggestions and ideas to
NativeCooking@aol.com. I am always learning things. Please let me know what
YOU want to see for recipes in this column.

Dale Carson is the author of three books, "New Native American Cooking,"
(temporarily out of print) "Native New England Cooking" and "A Dreamcatcher
Book."

For ordering information write to Dale Carson, P.O. Box 13, Madison, CT
06443 or e-mail NativeCooking@aol.com.