10 October 2011

Eats: crockpot potatoes

If you hadn’t made the educated guess from the “redheaded” part of this eponymous blog, I have some Irish ancestry. As a matter of fact, I have the prestigious honor of being descended from Irish stowaways. No, really. My who-knows-how-many-greats-grandfather stowed away on a boat to the United States during the Irish potato famine. So perhaps that’s why I enjoy a good baked potato – or perhaps because they are cheap and easy to prepare. Eh, probably both. Mostly the latter.

I'd be happy to have potatoes three times a week if it weren’t for the fact that they take forever to bake (the immortal Mitch Hedberg described it best). And I arrive home approximately zero minutes before dinnertime. Sure, you can “bake” a potato in the microwave, but it’s just not the same, not fluffy enough, not worth it.

So I was thrilled to find this post that claimed you can bake potatoes in the crockpot! I love my crockpot! And I love potatoes! Crockpot potatoes! No – crockpot-atoes. This would be awesome! Or so I thought.

The ingredients here really couldn’t be simpler.

For this experiment, I went with red potatoes to make ‘em mashed (Mr. P likes skin-on) for a meal later in the week, and two baking potatoes for dinner that night. First I scrubbed them well:

Then I wrapped up all the red potatoes in one big foil packet:

And the baking potatoes in their own individual foil wraps:

Then turned it on low for eight hours while I was at work. Done! Couldn’t be easier! There’s not even a mess to clean up in the crockpot afterwards. WIN! (Or so I thought.)

When I got home, I tentatively poked at the red potatoes in their packet:

Falling-apart done! This is the new best way to make potatoes! (Or so I thought. Am I foreshadowing enough?) Even if there were a few over-done spots from the ones resting against the inside wall of the crockpot:

I just picked that part off and put the rest in to mash. Which is when I started to notice something...

I pretended maybe the evening lighting in the kitchen made them look off, or I was tired, or I just forgot what baked potatoes looked like, but once I put in the butter and ranch dressing (required ingredients for fantastic mashed potatoes), there was no denying it: those potatoes were brown. Seriously, brown.

I honestly did not think it was possible to overcook potatoes. I mean, listen to Mitch up there! Mitch knows what he's talking about! Ugh. To rescue dinner, I did what I always do in the face of a potential kitchen disaster:

Of course I added shredded cheese. Of course.

You can really see the brown-ness when compared to the other food when I served them in an IKEA-inspired meatball dinner:

The cheese didn’t totally save the mashed potatoes, either. Those potatoes were just plain overdone. As were the much larger baking potatoes:

Yikes. That does not look like a tasty potato. Compare that to another time when I made them with my fast-as-I-can-but-still-fluffy method:

Hmmm. Shredded cheese alone wouldn’t help, so I piled on the chili:

It helped some, but they still totally tasted overdone, and the texture was super crumbly. Which made me go back to the source post to check that I used the correct setting and time. I did, but also noticed in her photo, peeking out from under the mass of toppings... brown potato.

So it’s not just me. Maybe a shorter length of time would help, but honestly, for now I think I’ll stick with my tried-and-true method: five minutes in the microwave, thirty minutes in the convection toaster oven at 400 degrees. It’s not as quick as I’d like, but a good potato is not worth cooking a bad way.

If you know a faster way to get a fluffy potato, I'd love to hear it! Or better yet, have you successfully cooked potatoes in the crockpot? And if you did, did you call them “crockpot-atoes”? I totally would have.


Shanna said...

I can't say that I've done crockpot baked potatoes but I do know from experience that potatoes can be overcooked to brownness [yep, I've done it!]. A waitress at The Grecian Restaurant in Blytheville, Arkansas once told my uncle that they boil all their baker potatoes, then heat them in the microwave before serving. They have the best baked potatoes, so maybe that's true. Worth a try!

Sarah said...

Boiling! I always forget boiling is an option! Then again, it always takes a good fifteen minutes to boil a pot of water, so it may not be a time-saver, at least not with the current stove. Will file away for future potato endeavors!