Dinner time seems to be under attack. It is amazing how many events we attend throughout the year that devour the hours of 6-8 p.m. A super-late dinner may work in some places in the world, but it does not for our household. So, these nights, we wind up eating at 5 p.m. on the dot, doing a quick clean up and shooting out the door.
Other than the occasional pizza, the only way I’ve been able to deal with this frequent problem is by having meals that can be thrown together in minutes. Many of these start with a mashed potato base that I refer to as money in the bank, or ready to be used.
Like many of my recipes, it’s not so much a list of ingredients and techniques as it is a plan. Here is how I use this meal base.
Gather about 10 tennis-ball sized potatoes (or the volume equivalent of another size) that have thin, relatively unblemished skins. (I prefer red-skinned.) Leaving the peels on (for better nutrition), cut potatoes into large chunks, removing any damaged areas. Boil in lightly salted water until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.
Here is where my technique diverges. To keep things vegan or dairy-free, add about one cup of a mayonnaise-like product, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and thoroughly mash. You want enough mayo-like stuff to eliminate a dry look, but not so much that you have goo.
This is your base. What can you do with it? Eat it as is as a side dish. Fill a pie plate with the potatoes, top it like a pizza and bake. Add all the ingredients of potato salad (I like dill, celery, corn, mustard and vinegar) and serve alongside picnic foods. Mix in breading (check out my recipe for Thrifty Gluten-Free Breading under the main menu bar), chopped onions and an egg or two (or the vegan equivalent) and fry in patties for instant latkes. Serve this with apple sauce for a quick, tasty meal.
I recently discovered a new twist when I had a leftover bonanza. Put the potato base in a kettle. Add my recipes for Speedy Summer Corn, Al-faux-do Sauce and a container of veggie broth and you have a ridiculously fast chowder. This soup plus a salad and a crusty loaf of bread makes it look like you really tried.
The potato base can be stored about 48 hours in the refrigerator, meaning you can easily use it as a side one day and as a very different meal the next. It can also be frozen and thawed quickly in the microwave, although we rarely can keep it around long enough to require such efforts.