Thursday, May 9, 2019

Always Bee Cooking #1: Potatoes and Transitions

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The Story

One thing I didn't expect from transitioning was a fundamental shift in my relationship to potatoes.

I grew up in a household that wasn't exactly conducive to loving food. Sitting around the dinner table was a masterclass in the kinds of manipulation (CW) that was constantly at play in my mom & stepfather's relationship. He would perform appreciation for her in a way that seemed to be transparently about bargaining for sex. Coupling that with my own intense reaction to certain textures – I have only recently been able to eat oatmeal or lettuce without involuntarily gagging – meant the situation was almost always unpleasant.

I dealt with that by becoming a 'picky' eater. And a large part of being picky is being performative about it, whether you intend to or not.

As late as 2017, everyone who knew me (and cared enough about my food preferences to file them away) knew that I hated potatoes. Hashbrowns were the exception, and I could deal with french fries. That was it.

In 2019, potatoes have been referred to as "[my] favorite food" by multiple, unrelated parties.

Coincidentally: in 2017, I was still of the mindset that any gender questions I had (including wanting, occasionally, to wear nail polish) were probably just white boy privilege and appropriation. In 2019, I'm out to friends, some family, and the internet now I guess?

I started cooking seriously when I moved to a place with a grocery store in walking distance (I haven't been behind the wheel of a car in almost 7 years at this point). My big goal at the time was to make breakfast burritos. To do that, I had to turn a corner on potatoes.

Getting there meant having more potatoes than I could use in just breakfast burritos. So I needed to find out other ways to use them. Once I had a serviceable, repeatable way to make breakfast burritos (check the recipes section!), I started branching out. I didn't want my food to go bad.

The story isn't that clean, of course. Potatoes aren't #transgirlculture. I started cooking them (and at all) because of a mix of material needs. I was having a difficult time working  – due in part to figuring out dysphoria, but also to having a remote job with no dedicated space in which to do it. I've continued because I've just become progressively more broke over the intervening years, had less work, and learned to really enjoy it. Plus Family Dinners. Lifesavers, those.

In the future, we'll get to stories about Family Dinner. Maybe that time I made mint eggs. It'll be nice. For now, though, let's get to some potato recipes that are fairly easy to do.

Some Quick Notes

Since this is the first one of these, I feel like I should say a few things before we get to the recipes.

First off, I'm one of those insufferable people who never measures. I'm sure whenever I start baking, that will change. I'll do my best to include them here, but recognize that these are guidelines.

Even growing up strongly disliking food, I've found that you can kind of guess at what you will have a tolerance for. I want to say err on the side of caution, because a bland breakfast scramble is a light disappointment while a salt mess might lead to wasting food. But you should also go a little hard sometimes, to test your limits. Do what feels right, and when it's wrong, take that knowledge forward (and don't let it get you down on yourself). Don't test your limits with meat though. Meat is terrifying.

Speaking of meat: most months, my recipes are probably going to be functionally vegan. That's how I'm most comfortable cooking. Earth Balance instead of butter, and all that. I'm not vegan, but I mostly eat that way.

I also tend to make more than a single meal's worth, so if you follow me to a T then expect to feed company or have leftovers. Leftovers are great.

All of the recipes below (and likely most of the ones in the future) are going to contain some variation on garlic and onions. I've said here to use the powder; things like dried, salt, or fresh also work, just adjust accordingly. Powder is the most concentrated, so use more of it; dried and fresh need to be cooked, so consider adding it earlier (or later if you're afraid it will burn, though little chunks of burnt garlic are fine imo); and onion salt can take the place of some or all of the salt that you would otherwise use.

I'll also try to have more photos in future. People seem to like those? I didn't have money to buy potatoes while writing this o:).

Oh and: holy shit, thank you. If you get a chance to make one of these recipes, please do let me know. Especially if it comes out messy. I'm trying this new thing, you know?


Home Base Home Fries
2-3 medium russet potatoes (or 1-2 large ones)
Neutral oil (canola, grapeseed)
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder (see notes above if you don't have either powder)
Black Pepper
Smoked Paprika

Wash potatoes and start chopping. You'll want pieces that are rough cubes, big enough to maybe fit two on a fork/in your mouth. Around halfway through chopping set a pan over medium-high heat to warm.

Once you're done chopping, add oil to the pan. Let it heat for a few seconds, then add chopped potatoes. Add all spices to taste, toss in the pan. Cover the pan and peace out for about five minutes.

Check and stir/flip potatoes, replace cover for another five minutes. Poke larger chunks with a fork or spatula to determine if they're cooked through. If not return cover and cook for another five minutes. Repeat until done. Once done, go to the next step.

Once potatoes are easily able to be pierced by a fork or spatula, remove cover and cook, flipping every few minutes until potatoes are crisp on the outside. Remove to a plate.

Optional: about a minute before potatoes are done, add spinach to the pan and cook until slightly wilted. Voila, healthy breakfast?

Potato & Egg Scramble
Home Base Home Fries Recipe (above)
3 eggs
2-3 handfuls of spinach (or another leafy green)

Follow home fries instructions up to paragraph 3. While cooking, break eggs into a bowl, add a dash of water or milk, and whisk until scrambled.

Once you remove the cover (when potatoes are easily pierced), get potatoes to a well-crisped state (but not quite finished). Pour eggs into the same pan, reducing heat slightly.

Let cook for a couple minutes, until eggs start to coagulate. Begin adding spinach. Cook eggs until done, and spinach until slightly wilted. This can be done in a different pan if you need more space, which will also allow them to be covered so they cook slightly faster. Combine and serve.

Simple Breakfast Burrito
Home Base Home Fries Recipe (above)
4 Eggs
~4 Tortillas
1 handful Kale (or another leafy green)
Fresh Cilantro

Follow instructions for Home Base Home Fries (less optional spinach). Alternatively, get fancy and follow recipe for Crispy Cheesy Hashbrowns below. I can't guarantee that one, but I bet it's good. Once finished, move to a burner on the lowest heat and only occasionally stir to keep warm.

Add chorizo to a new pan on medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring, until chorizo starts to evenly brown. Add kale or other green, and cook until it begins to wilt (a couple minutes should suffice. Add eggs, and cook until done.

Turn a burner with no pan on it on to low. Place tortilla directly on the burner. Once a light smoke starts curling up from under the tortilla, flip and repeat. Lightly toast each side of each tortilla to add some warmth and crunch.

Assemble burritos, adding optional cilantro/avocado if desired. Fold them better than I do, add hot sauce of choice (Cholula or Crystal are personal favorites) or salsa per bite, and enjoy. Refrigerate leftovers for up to a week, if you really want to push it.

Crispy Cheesy Hashbrowns
3-5 medium potatoes (idk what medium means either)
1-2 small handfuls shredded mozzarella (other cheeses should work as well)
A cheese grater and plenty of time
Garlic Powder

Start by washing and then grating the potatoes into a bowl large enough to hold all of them. Fill bowl with cold water, and lightly massage potatoes (similar to washing rice). Drain into a colander, then repeat until water runs clear. If you are planning on making a soup simultaneously, reserve the starchy water.

Lay out grated, washed potatoes on a couple of paper towels. Place more on top. Let sit until dry, probably 30 minutes to an hour. Heat up a pan over medium heat. Return to bowl and toss with pepper, garlic powder, salt, and cheese.

Put a generous dash of oil and a half tablespoon of butter into the pan. Pull between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of mixed potatoes (depending on how hungry you and/or your guests appear to be) out of the bowl and place in the pan. Flatten. These should not have a fluffy center. Cook over medium heat for too long (or turn the heat up a little bit if you are in a rush or easily bored), until bottom is crispy. Flip and repeat. Plate. Repeat this whole paragraph until all potatoes are cooked. Serve.

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