October 27

Baked Potato Day

Baked Potato. Potatoes Anna. Potato Patch. The Maneuver. Planet Hollywood. Mr. Fawlty. Mannerly Eater.

Days Until. . .

Halloween 4

Today's Flavor

Today is National Baked Potato Day. The world's greatest food authorities love baked potatoes as well as the common man does. James Beard told me once, "Most people don't understand how good a perfect baked potato can be, without even any butter or salt. When it's very fresh and plucked at the perfect time, of course."Paul Prudhomme said the same thing. When he was growing up, the kids in the big Prudhomme family went to the garden too pull up potatoes. When they had enough, they'd run inside to start cooking them. He said you could easily tell the difference between those and store-bought.Few of us have enjoyed these brink-of-goodness revelations. But we still like our baked potatoes. Restaurants rarely serve them well, because it takes over an hour to properly bake a potato, and it's only at peak right as it comes out of the oven. As a result, baked potatoes in restaurants are usually overbaked, or kept at a decent state by being steamed rather than baked.To bake potatoes at home, the starting point is critical: large russet potatoes, without any hint of green in the skin (lightly scratch the skin with your fingernail to check this). And no hint of sprouting, of course. While preheating the oven to 375 degrees, scrub them under cold running water. Then put them right on the oven rack in the center of the oven. If you have a convection oven, use the convection feature. Bake them for between an hour and an hour and fifteen minutes (longer for bigger potatoes). That temperature is lower than what most people use, but I prefer it because it allows a bit more margin for error, and it makes the skin better for eating. (I always eat the skin of a baked potato. Do you?)

Gourmet Gazetteer

Potato Mountain is about twenty-five miles west from the westernmost tip of mainland Alaska. It's on the peninsula that reaches into the Bering Strait toward a matching peninsula on the Russian side of the strait. The first humans to enter the New World passed this way when a land bridge existed from Asia into North America. All this is in a hilly wilderness, just a mile on the Arctic Ocean side of the Continental Divide. No restaurants anywhere near, of course, but a landing strip nearby allows you to ly to Nome and eat some salmon.

Edible Dictionary

potatoes Anna, n.--Thinly-sliced potatoes baked with a tremendous amount of butter between the layers. Although it's made with only two ingredients, plus salt and pepper, the preparation requires so much effort that it's rarely served in restaurants. (This means that any restaurant that jumps on it could have a new signature dish.) The French devised a two-part pan especially for making potatoes Anna. The parts fit into one another, so the pan can be turned over again and again on the stove until the spuds are browned on the top, bottom, and edges. Another way to make the dish is to layer the potatoes in a cast-iron skillet with heavy dousing of clarified butter, then fit a smaller cast-iron skillet inside it and press the potatoes down. This method uses the oven instead of the stovetop. Potatoes Anna was named for any of three glamorous, free-thinking women who patronized Chef Adolphe Duglere's restaurant in Paris in the 1800s.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

If you're pressed for time and need baked potatoes, you can speed the process by starting the cooking process in a microwave oven. The formula is two minutes for each large potato in the microwave. Turn them over and repeat the nuking. Then finish the baking in a 400 degree oven for about a half-hour.

Deft Dining Rule #644

Baked potatoes should only be ordered in restaurants where at least six baked potatoes can be seen on other tables.

Physiology Of Eating

Today in 1975, the American Medical Association endorsed Dr. Henry Heimlich's method of delivering assistance to people choking on food. The rescuer puts his arms around the victim from behind, clasps his hands, positions this double fist right between the navel and the sternum, and gives a sudden, upward-diagonal jerk. This often pushes a blast of air from the lungs into the windpipe, blowing out the food caught in the throat. It can also crack a rib, but that's a lot less serious than the death that comes very quickly if the victim can't breathe. If you don't know how to do this, learn.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Planet Hollywood opened its original New York location today in 1991. It got a lot of publicity because among its owners were Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Demi Moore. A New York friend who should have known better told me he stood in line for two hours to eat in the place then. We had a Planet Hollywood in New Orleans for awhile, but it died a well-deserved death. We only go for real restaurants here.

Food In Sho-Biz

John Cleese was born in England today in 1939. He was one of the original writers and performers in Monty Python's Flying Circus, but he may be even more famous as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, the insane show about a hotel pretending to be a first-class operation while failing at everything, especially food.

Annals Of Etiquette

Emily Post was born today in 1872. She grew up amidst wealth and refinement in Baltimore and New York. In the summer, she spent her time (very appropriately) at Tuxedo Park, a New York resort developed by her father. She went on to write a newspaper column about manners, and Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, published in 1922. The book is now in its seventeenth edition, currently being written by Emily Post's great-great-granddaughter Peggy Post. Here's a website.

Food Namesakes

James Cook, the British sea captain who discovered the Sandwich Islands (we now call it Hawaii, but still this qualifies the guy for a double food name award), was born today in 1728. He also discovered Australia and many other places in the South Pacific. That's why his name comes up more often in this department than any other. . . Actress and Donald Trump wife Marla Maples was born today in 1963. . . Astronaut Michael Baker blasted off his life today in 1953.

Words To Eat By

"Bread that must be sliced with an axe is bread that is too nourishing." --American writer Fran Lebowitz, born today in 1950. She has a few other good food quotations:"Breakfast cereals that come in the same colors as polyester leisure suits make oversleeping a virtue.""Cheese that is compelled by law to append the word 'food' to its title does not go well with red wine or fruit.""Large, naked, raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter.""My favorite animal is steak."

Words To Drink By

"Civilized adults do not take apple juice with dinner."--Fran Lebowitz.