Don’t Try This (method) At Home… But Do Eat The Results…

When I started this blog, one of the things I had hoped to impart was some of the lessons that I’ve learned in the kitchen. My adventures in the kitchen the last two days have given me something to share. Hopefully my frustration will allow you to not make the same mistakes…

Let’s start from the beginning…

We were supposed to leave for California, over a week ago, so when I was packing up my kitchen for possibly a month of storage, I packed my parchment paper, aluminum foil, etc. assuming that I wouldn’t see an oven for awhile. Besides, the space in my car was already going to be cramped with all the other ‘necessity’ items.

Well, we’ve been delayed, for hopefully only a few more days (fingers crossed 😉 ). And suddenly the oven has become my friend, because I don’t have a microwave. Strange how everything changes when your available appliances change. Anyway, you can read more about my current situation here. (yada, yada, yada).

I also don’t have any cooking oil, I chucked out pretty much all of what was left of my pantry because I didn’t have room in my car and I didn’t want to store food in my PODS container to avoid pests. I know it’s wasteful, please don’t send me hate mail. 😕 I did give my canned goods and anything unopened to charity, so I’m not a complete shmuck. We are getting off subject here…

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, lessons learned in the kitchen…

So I had the bright idea to bake a sweet potato and a russet potato on consecutive nights without the usual suspects, aluminum foil/ parchment paper and cooking oil…

Enter, what should have been a great idea… a brown paper lunch bag. Why did I still have lunch bags? I had put them with the packing supplies, figured I could use them crumpled up as stuffing for fragile items.

Apparently, brown paper bags are not really your friends. What I had hoped they would do was 1. make my clean up easier, but more importantly 2. seal in the moisture of the spud in question (are sweet potatoes spuds?). What I think actually happened, was quite the opposite. I think the paper bags sucked the moisture out of the spuds and actually made the cooking process take much much longer… to the point of me saying, “Hey, that’s not cool man!”

So, the lesson? Don’t use paper bags… they suck, literally!

The sweet potato was kinda big, so when it took 1 hour and 50 minutes at 400°F and was still not as soft as I would have liked it, I chalked it up to it size.

Oh yeah, we had this salad while we waited for the sweet potato to cook for an additional hour…

But last night, when I made a reasonably sized russet potato and it took TWO HOURS, I realized it was my cooking method, not the size. When I went to check on it after an hour, it was still hard as a rock. After another half hour, it was only marginally softer. I had turned the oven up from 400°F to 450°F, but only for about 15 minutes before the house had a match-lit like smell so I turned it back down to 400°F. Then I took that sucker out of the bag and put it straight onto the pan and cooked it for an additional 15-20 minutes. Sheesh!

So my lesson to you, is all about the method I used, paper bag = way too long. But the actual combination of toppings for the potato, turned out really great, just not two hours great. If the potato had taken the expected one hour, then yeah, totally make this meal…

If you are into potatoes with unusual but great toppings, a la Jason’s Deli, then you will like this combination…

Take an onion, cut the ends off and then peel off a layer or two. Next take a bell pepper, cut off the top, remove the seeds and trim the ribs out. Take a russet potato, scrub off the dirt, and if you have the supplies, dry it off, poke it with a fork a few times, and rub it with some cooking oil and/or wrap it in aluminum foil or parchment paper.

For the onion and bell pepper, I cut the onion in half and then took one half and cut it again. I put those fourths inside the pepper.

My preferred method would have been to cut up the onion in fourths, possibly the pepper too, added a bit of cooking oil, salt & pepper and wrapped it up in foil, then baked beside the potato, hopefully for only an hour at 400°F…. or to have cut the onion and pepper into strips and then sauteed them in cooking oil in a frying pan.

I ended up baking the onion and pepper for 1 1/2 hours before removing them from the paper bag… and then added the onion straight to the pan with the potato for another 15-20 minutes. I peeled off the two dried layers from the onion before cutting into strips.

Once the spud, onion, and pepper were cooked to the level I was happy with, I took some red beans, drained them and then added them to a pot. To the pot of beans, I added salt & pepper, and the rest of my bbq sauce… probably about 1/4 cup or so… and cooked until heated through.

I divided up the potato, added margarine (soy garden), salt & pepper…

Then I divided up the onion and pepper and put those strips on top of the potato. Then I poured the bbq beans over the leaning tower of potato and called it dinner…

It was really good! The bbq sauce had a nice zing and the onion and pepper were nicely sweet. It all went together great. If you make a baked potato, in your usual way (which is hopefully less than two hours), I think you will enjoy putting these toppings on it. Delicious!

For the record, the rest of those brown paper lunch bags went back into the packing supply pile… They have been banished from the kitchen. 😉

Q: What seemingly great idea for cooking did you have that ended up not being quite what you had in mind?

Until next time…
~nic

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