Colorless spuds? Check the water

BURNING QUESTIONS

January 10, 2007|By Gholam Rahman | Gholam Rahman,Cox News Service

I boiled some red new potatoes for a salad dish, but the potatoes lost their color and came out rather dull gray. What was the reason? Did I do something wrong?

Preserving or enhancing the color of foods we cook, particularly vegetables, is one of the holy grails of both home and professional cooks. Creating a dish that evokes voila! and wow! requires the happy convergence of many factors, including the heat, the quality of the cooking medium such as water, the utensils, the ingredients and even the weather.

And despite your having done everything right, the imponderables still might make the effort fall short.

My guess is that the problem in your case lies mainly in the water. It may be hard and have more iron than usual, which reacts adversely with certain chemical compounds in the potatoes. The color may deteriorate even further as the potatoes cool. An in-house water softening system also can add to the problem.

Here are steps you can take to improve your odds: Add a small amount of cream of tartar or a tablespoon of vinegar or lime juice to balance the pH level of your water and bring it more toward the acid end; use a nonreactive pan - either stainless steel or nonstick coated; use bottled water to cook sensitive ingredients; use lots of salted water - bring it to a boil, add potatoes and cook uncovered until tender, about 20 minutes.

To begin with, choosing unblemished well-colored potatoes certainly will help, but despite all you may have done, some color will leach into the water. When you put an oil-based dressing on the spuds, however, some of the lost sheen, if not color, will be restored.

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