Have you ever thought of eating as an indoor sport? Cooking may as well be my indoor sport! I don't play ping-pong, basketball, billiards, or poker, so if I have to choose an indoor sport it would be cooking and eating! I am constantly looking for different ways to fix an old standby -- or a new recipe that I do not have all the ingredients for. I usually have most things on hand with the exception of one ingredient, and usually I can find something in my cupboard as a substitute. The one thing I am never without is the potato.
I cannot imagine not having potatoes on hand, or onions. If I ask Bob what he wants for supper, his standard reply is potato soup. I have fixed it every way possible and added ingredients including ham, bacon, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and corn. I add salmon to my potato soup, but don't dare put it in Bob's bowl of soup. I also have added clams and halibut or the combination of all three fish. And when I am through adding things to Bob's bowl of soup he wants cheese on top! Not me! Butter, maybe.
I bet you think the potato came from Ireland! Not by a long shot! The potato is a native of South America and the Spanish found them a staple of South American Indians. The then were introduced by the Spanish to the European counties, and were adapted to most of their recipes. So I suppose the Irish potato really came from South America.
A big mountain of Mom's mashed potatoes, a big dent in the top -- with either some of Mom's wonderful cream gravy or a big heap of homemade butter. And pass the salt and pepper. Mom baked potatoes, cut them in two and spooned out the middle, mashed them with butter and cream, added cheese and salt and pepper. The she piled the white fluffy mashed potatoes back in the shell and "dotted" the top with butter and cheese and stuck them back in the oven to brown up. She called them "Twice Baked Potatoes." I think they are a lot of work and prefer the receiver of the baked potato, fresh hot from the oven, to be mashed by the hand that is going to eat it. Just pass the butter and sour cream. I have many, many times in my life just eaten a baked potato for lunch or supper -- usually hot out of the microwave, piled high with leftovers (taco meat or diced chicken, onions and cheese, sour cream, salsa) or just the butter and sour cream. And you have to eat the crispy potato skin. It's a most satisfying meal.
Whether you bake, boil, fry or french-fry or add to the stew or soup, it holds its place of honor at any table. Fried potatoes for breakfast with onions and eggs and bacon. Oh! That is the best. French fries? My grandsons have loved my french fries for 23 years. Probably the reason I do not mind fixing a big batch is because I like them too.
Left over mashed potatoes -- never throw them out! They are a good base for the salmon patty, adding an egg, some onion and a few crushed crackers. Clam fritters are in the same category. Or just a good potato patty browned in butter.
I love to make potato salad and at one time had a layered potato salad that I entered in a bunch of contests. But the very best is the tried and true old fashioned potato salad with boiled eggs, onions, celery and sweet or dill pickles and mayonnaise and a dab of mustard.
Then there is the scalloped (escalloped) or "scalped" potato with diced ham, onion, cheese and milk mixed with cream of mushroom soup poured over top. Pop in the oven and you have a full meal when it comes out brown and bubbly. Oh! Now that is an Alaskan dish you will remember forever!
Or the time my oldest daughter raised chickens and I canned chickens for her. With left over broth, Bob suggested that we can small new potatoes in the broth. Open that jar of poatoes and broth, heat up the broth, season and thicken with a little cornstarch for gravy, slip the potatoes back in the gravy to warm up. Ladle into a soup bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and here you are -- in potato heaven again.
Can you remember the first time you stuck a potato in the campfire? Or provided potatoes for the Fall Hobo Stew for the Boy or Girl Scouts, as the others would bring carrots, onions, celery, cabbage and canned tomatoes? The adult would supply the ground meat. Let it simmer over the campfire coals until well done. Ladle into cups. On my! That was good. I often make this at home -- it is a satisfying soup for the cold Alaskan soul.
How about the elegant boiled new potatoes in a cream butter sauce with fresh from the garden sweet peas? Served with salmon patties, halibut or beer battered fish -- that really is an Alaskan dish!
My memory of the potato goes way back to the times I was the designated "peeler of the potato" from the time I was young enough to wield a knife. My Mom would warn, "Peel the skin thin, Edith Ann. No wasting the potato! I still think of this little warning when I pick up a potato to peel. Alaskan potatoes need not be peeled, and I like it that way.