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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dehydrated Potatoes - and two recipes for them

If you have ever bought a box of Au Gratin Potatoes at the grocery store, you have cooked with dehydrated potatoes.  They are easy to work with, and are easy to make.  Dehydrated potatoes are an excellent way to preserve all the organic potatoes that you can buy from the market during summer, without having to build a large box in your basement and fill it with wood chips!

You can either peel your potatoes, or leave the skins on, and wash them thoroughly with warm water and a veggie scrubber.  Many of the nutrients in a potato are in the skin, but it really is a personal preference.  You want to use fresh white potatoes, or red skin potatoes.  Yukon Gold potatoes can be used, but are not the best, texturally speaking.

I usually peel my potatoes, and place them in a large bowl of cold water.  Using a mandolin slicer, I slice them about 1/8 of an inch thick.  You can cut them however you like, just make sure they are not too thick, or the dehydrating times will be extended.  As soon as they are sliced, I put them back in cold water until I am ready to boil them.

I next get a large pot of salted boiling water, and I put the potatoes in a mesh veggie steamer/boiler basket and then submerge them in the boiling water.  You can dump them straight in and then pour them out into a strainer, but you risk the chance of breaking the slices in half.  By putting them in a mesh basket, you can submerge and boil the potatoes, and them remove them from the pot and put them in another pot of ice water without breaking them.

If you do check other pages on dehydrating potatoes, you will find wildly varying times on how long to blanch the potatoes.  In my experience, 5 min. is about the longest you want to have them boiling.  If your slices are 1/8 inch thick and uniform, I would suggest 4 1/2 to 5 minutes from the moment you drop them in, not from when the water starts to boil again.  Once the time is up, transfer them to ice cold water and continue to run them under cold water until they are cool.  If the potatoes cook too long, you might as well have mashed for dinner.

Once they are cool, spread them out on a paper towel or a flour sack towel to dry a bit.
After they are spread out, I set up the dehydrator and I prep the trays.  Many sites will tell you to spray the trays with veggie spray, but I always make a mess with that, so I take a paper towel, put a little olive oil on it, and then lightly wipe the tray surface.  No messy sprays and no dripping oil into the bottom of the dehydrator.  This will help the potatoes not stick to the trays, though I have forgotten to wipe them a few times, and did not suffer much of a problem without the oil.
The nice thing about dehydrating potatoes, is 5 trays equals about 3 cups dried chips, which is perfect for a family of 4.  I usually work on the potatoes when I am making a potato dish for dinner, so it only adds a few minutes to peel and slice a  few extra potatoes, and the dehydrating doesn't really get in the way of normal daily activities. Next to the dehydrator is the dish of Au Gratin potatoes for dinner, using the less pretty slices.

Dehydrating times will vary depending on the type of dehydrator you have and the thickness of your slices, but these took about 12 hours.  You can tell that the potatoes are done when they are brittle, with no softness in the center.  The dehydrator I used is a convection-only, so I did have to shuffle the trays, and some trays dried quicker, so I just checked them every hour or so after the first 10 - 12 hours.

Once they are dry, I store them in plain press-close bags, and keep them in the cupboard.  I usually set them up pre-measured so that when it is time to make them up, I can just dump the bag and get to dinner.
Here are two recipes for Au Gratin potatoes:

     4 cups dried potatoes                    2 cups boiling water
     1 cup milk                                           1/2 tsp dried onion
     salt and pepper to taste
     1-2 tsps. butter                                 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese.

     Place half the potatoes in a well-buttered 8 x 10 baking dish.  Top with layer of half the cheese, cover with remaining potatoes.  Add seasoning to milk and boiling water and pour over layered potatoes and cheese.  Dot the top with butter, and cover with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees until tender.

This next one has a few more steps, but is a creamy, cheesy Au Gratin;
     3 cups dried potatoes                       6 tbls. butter
     3 tbls. flour                                            1 1/2 cups milk
     1 cup grated cheddar cheese
     spices to taste - salt, pepper, dried onions, garlic powder or dried flakes.

     Put potatoes in a well-buttered baking dish, set aside.  On low heat, in a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the flour, mix well.  Add the milk and stir until thick.  Add the cheese and stir until melted.  Add the spices and stir well, pour over the potatoes and bake at 400 degrees for 30 -40 minutes, or until tender.  I do like to add more grated cheese to the top before baking, but this is a personal preference.

Happy dehydrating, and remember, try to use potatoes that have not been treated with lots of pesticides, and get them as fresh as possible, preferably from your local Farmer's Market.  Store bought dehydrated potatoes are usually bleached in the process, so by doing your own, you are saving money, and insuring that your family gets the best of the harvest.

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