Kitchen Lab: Poe-Tay-Toes

Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew. O, potatoes. The veg that keeps eyes on me, that keeps well-nigh forever in a nice dark drawer, I nom unto thee.

Or maybe I shouldn’t? Potatoes are a part of the nightshade family and contain glycoalkaloids that affect the nervous system. However, those wee nasties are mostly contained in the stems, leaves, and other green bits of the potato… basically, the bits we don’t eat. Basic potato safety: if you see a green potato, don’t eat it.

Aside from the green poisonous bits, potatoes are awesome! They are delicious vegetables (except in the UK), they can be made into delicious booze, they can be made into fries and tots and mush and cakes and… toys. Potatoes are also the go-to plant research tissue!

Potatoes (mainly Russets) are commonly used in plant research. The consistent parenchyma tissue, the clonal nature of the plant and the low metabolic activity provide a very nice “model tissue” for experimentation. Wound-response studies are often done on potato tuber tissue, as are electron transport experiments. In this respect, potato tuber tissue is similar to Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans and Escherichia coli: they are all “standard” research organisms.

yellow potatoes
Not tots. Preteen, perhaps.

I highly recommend that you conduct an experiment in your own kitchen and try making these super-easy taters.

Go buy a couple of pounds of potatoes, some sort of yellow/gold variety is pretty good. You can trade off washing vs. cutting in one of two ways: wash a ton of tiny (“petite”) potatoes and just cut ’em in half, or wash a few larger potatoes and cut them into half-tiny-potato sizes. Up to you.

cut up, buttered, and herbed potatoes prior to cooking
Get cozy, everyone.

Preheat your oven to 375F and scrub the dirt off yer taters. A vegetable brush helps this, but if you’re cool with it you can just rinse ’em off really well in your hands. You do leave the skin on these guys, so… yeah. Chop your clean potatoes into bite-sized pieces, and melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. Dump the potatoes and the butter into a 9×13″ baking pan (the brownie pan that’s a rectangle, not a square) or casserole dish and stir them all up to coat the potatoes in butter. I usually just use my clean hands.

In a little bowl, mix together a tablespoon each of rosemary and basil, a teaspoon of salt, and a bit of pepper. (You can also just grind some pepper over the potatoes.) Sprinkle this mix over the buttered potatoes, and stick the whole shebang in the oven for 45 minutes or so while you cook the rest of your dinner. Or play video games.

herbed potatoes in a pan
Don’t burn your tongue. (they’re that good)

They’ll look all lovely golden and crispy ’round the edges when they’re done. And the hardest part is the washing. Super easy!

Recipe blatantly yoinked from The Working Stiff Cookbook by Bob Sloan. It’s a good ‘un… and pretty, too.

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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