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Cheap and Good: Mashed Potatoes Are Your Friend

patties Writing these articles, I realize that it does seem that when it comes to “cheap and good,” I’m concentrating on white foods. And, that is correct because today, Aunt Toby is going to talk about another white thing that if you’ve got it in the fridge, you are golden in terms of having A Useful Thing™.

Left over mashed potatoes are a great thing to have, especially if you have resisted the urge (because we are all about resisting urges here at Chez Siberia on the Susquehanna) to put garlic in them when you make them. If you want garlic mashed potatoes, make the mashed potatoes first, take out a couple of cups extra, seal them up in the container of your choice (yoghurt containers tend to be used for this at my house), and THEN do the addition of the cooked and mashed up garlic. Tastes the same and now you have mashed potatoes that you have the choice of what to do with.

If you start with garlic mashed potatoes, then you are stuck with making savory things rather than sweet things, so having sort of a neutral form of mashed potatoes (which actually sounds like “baby puppies” I realize, since mashed potatoes, by definition, are pretty neutral all by themselves) is really the optimal deal.

And, speaking of “savory things,” what you are looking at in that photograph above is the number one fav on my DS’ list of “Mom, will you make xxx when I get home?” This is a homey, and frankly homely, thing called “fish patties.”

Now, if you have access to wonderful (and expensive) stuff like Bacalla (salt cod), then you can ritz this up by soaking that and doing cod fish cakes, but the title of this series is not “Ritzy and Good” – it’s CHEAP and Good, and I grew up with these babies and …well, so there.

These are made with canned tuna fish.

Now – I know there are a lot of folks out there who will not eat canned tuna for various reasons and I am frankly not going to get into that discussion here.

And I’m not advocating eating canned tuna (or for that matter fresh – Jeremy Piven, are you and your mercury titers listening to ME?) on a daily basis. Tuna, like other fish in the food chain such as striped bass, blue fish etc., eat other fish. And those other fish may eat other smaller fish and so on and so forth down, down, down, to crustaceans and plankton and Dog only knows what else. And, as you go up the food chain with bigger and bigger fish, things…mmm…tend to get concentrated and that is how we end up with mercury et al. in the food that we eat (remind me sometime to tell you the story about why the Inuit do NOT eat Polar Bear liver…lift your hair, it will).

But, canned tuna (and canned salmon – another wonderful protein source and more likely to be wild caught than anything else) is one thing we love here at Aunt Toby’s kitchen: it’s cheap. It’s 100% protein and you get 2.5 servings of protein out of each can. So, it’s one of the cheapest forms of protein you can get. But…looking at that little can – there’s not a whole lot IN there, is there? And if you have kids with voracious appetites that need to have all their corners filled up, what are you going to do?

Fill ‘em up with these – they are hot, good and take care of all the corners.

Tuna Patties – makes 10 patties as big as your hand. Two on a plate with veggies will feed one adult. My son, however, requires four, but he inhales his food.

2 cans of tuna packed in water – choose the mildest flavor you can find.
2 C. of mashed potatoes (if you have to make them fresh, this takes three fist-sized potatoes, cooked and mashed with a little bit of milk and butter; this also works well with mashed potatoes that have had stuff like garlic or spices mashed into them)
1 egg
1 onion (half the size of your fist), diced teeny
½ C. bread crumbs or matzoh meal
Spices (if you have flavored bread crumbs, they usually have spices in them, but if you don’t, then put in a couple of teaspoons of dried oregano and basil for Italian or try spices that you’d use for Mexican or Indian…use a sparing hand with kids, though; too spicy and they may not eat them)

Mix all of this all together. If it seems a little bit wet, put more meal or crumbs in it. You want something that has the consistency of meat balls so that it will hold together.

Two ways to make these:
Baked: Form into patties and bake for 20-25 min. on a greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees.
Fried: Put a little oil into a fry pan (I use an electric one set at 325) and fry, covered until mostly firm on one side, then flip. They will be crispy on both sides and everything will be cooked all the way through.
Serve with – any sauce you like – ketchup is a fav with kids, but cocktail sauce works, salad dressings, etc.

Now, for the sweet. And this is definitely short and sweet: Put a cup of mashed potatoes into any yeast baked good you make and you will improve the performance of the whole dough tremendously. They also will stay fresher longer. Don’t get too nervous about recipes – just throw a cup of mashed potatoes into the bowl along with the liquid and the yeast etc. and then start to add the flour. You will need less flour to make the dough of course. This is especially good when you make cinnamon buns. But, of course, it also means that you want to be starting with neutral, unflavored mashed potatoes (see above discussion about garlic mashed).

Another “sweet” that you can use mashed potatoes for is definitely a regional historic item: mashed potato candy. I thought this was a creature of Maine only; I have since found out that there are recipes from all over the US based on the use of left over mashed potatoes (but again, you will want to use plain cold mashed potatoes rather than something you’ve mashed something else into for this). Here is one from Maine and here is the ingredients list:

4 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 cups flaked coconut
3/4 cup cold, plain potatoes, mashed (do not use leftover mashed potatoes made with milk or butter)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound dark candy coating
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Maine Potato Candy

So, lesson learned: do NOT throw out those left over mashed potatoes; as a matter of fact, peel and throw in an extra potato so that you have plenty of mashed potatoes in the fridge!!

(originally published at Oxdown Gazette)

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