Monday, September 21, 2009

You Say Potato....

I say my mom is the best sleuth and my hero! Ok, that's not quite the rhyme that comes to mind, but it is the truth today.
I am hosting a little brunch this week for some American ladies at my house and I wanted to make this potato casserole dish of my grandmother's as one of the side dishes for the meal. It is a pretty standard cheese/potato/cream of (your choice) soup/cornflake topping all American potato dish. So, as I was preparing my menu and grocery list this weekend, I saw frozen hash brown potatoes on there. I thought to myself that I had not purchased such an item since we have been living over here, so I best check to see if the product is even available. 
After three grocery store visits (Waitrose, Sainsbury's, and Tesco), no frozen hash brown potato cubes were to be found. Mind you, I found aisles of frozen chips (aka french fries) in about 20 different varieties but no potato cubes! So, I googled my options and did not find a suitable substitute for the American version of frozen hash brown cubes.

I phoned my mother to consult. She said she was headed to the grocery store in the US and would take a look at the frozen potato section there. Upon her return she let me know that she could not find much information on the bags of the potatoes, so she took it upon herself and emailed the Ore-Ida potato manufacturer to find out if the potatoes are cooked before they are frozen, if they have special seasoning, etc. Then, this afternoon, I received an email from my mom saying she had called Ore-Ida and asked to speak to someone in their product department. She consulted a product specialist and he said that the potatoes they sell in the US are flash-cooked in hot water between 180-190 degrees for 3 minutes before they are flash frozen and packaged for sale (no seasoning). He said I could probably just use raw potatoes in the casserole, but htat it might be better to cook them a little in boiling water or in a skillet, just to soften them a bit. 
I had to chuckle to myself because I am not sure I would have taken the step to actually call the company to consult with a product specialist about frozen potatoes but of course my mother did because she is the best sleuth out there! 

And now, on to the making of "Frozen Hash Browns" over here in the UK:
I purchased a very large bag of baking potatoes, peeled them, and chopped them into cubes. 
I then boiled them in 180 degree (F) water for 3 minutes as the man at Ore-Ida suggested.
After I drained the potatoes from the water, I let them dry out a bit on paper towels.
I then "flash froze" batches of them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer.
After the potato cubes were frozen, I measured them out into bags of 4 cups each (approximately 20 ounces of potatoes - bags in the US are sold in 32 ounces at the moment, but my recipe calls for 20 ounces so I wanted to have an extra supply for the recipe I will be making) and then I put them back in the freezer until they will be needed later this week. 
I will report back on how this home made version of the frozen hash brown works later in the week, post-brunch.


Iota said...

I have to applaud your initiative and determination (and your mother's).

Anonymous said...

That's awesome, I hate it when I can't find an American ingredient or a good substitute!