April 11, 2005

Adventures in Potatoes

If you've been reading here for any length of time, I think it has been well established that I love food. I don't cook as much as I'd like, and the best thing I make these days is reservations, but I do enjoy it.

I also watch the occasional cooking show, though I was somewhat late to the party with watching Iron Chef because we didn't have Food Network for a while. But once I started watching and caught on to what it was, I was hooked. I don't know if I've seen all of the original Japanese episodes, but I have to have seen most of them, and will watch them pretty much whenever they're on.

The first time they tried to do an American version it was, frankly, a disaster. I'm not going to even try to describe how bad it was. Somehow, they decided to give it another shot and the newer Iron Chef America, while not perfect, is at least watchable. The Iron Chefs are interesting and entertaining, and while most of the food is still stuff I probably wouldn't eat, it's at least more identifiable to me than the Japanese dishes.

Are you wondering by now if there's a point to all this? There is. I've been watching the show for years now and I've never been inspired to try to make any of the dishes presented on it. Until now. Recently they introduced the first-ever female Iron Chef, Cat Cora, who won her first battle, where potatoes were the "secret ingredient." The best way to inspire me to try a recipe is to include potatoes in it -- I loves me some potatoes.

Some of the dishes were the usual "who would eat that?" kind of thing, like blue potato gelato and a moussaka with potato and duck in place of the traditional ingredients. But one of them, a dish called Skordalia, made my mouth absolutely water. I started looking for recipes, but nothing I found really resembled the dish she presented. It's generally a potato and garlic dip, I learned, but the version she made wasn't really pureed like a dip and still had visible pieces of potato in it.

In addition to looking for recipes, I watched the show three more times just to see the brief parts where they showed it being made. Then I decided to do something I very rarely do when it comes to cooking: I winged it, which was hard for me. I'm a stick-to-the-recipe kind of person for the most part. My mom has that amazing ability to throw a bunch of stuff together and create an off-the-cuff masterpiece, but I've never been able to do it. I decided to improvise a combination of what I'd read and what I'd seen.

And it was fan-freaking-tastic. Just thought I'd share that.