Despite best intentions, the feeding frenzy over at Y Combinator (which reminds me...I need to post my top ten list!) kept me from posting the fan favorite recipes from Open Kitchen Camp. But if you're headed to Burning Man tomorrow, there's one recipe you'll want to make ahead of time - and that's Bacon Burner Mashed Potatoes.
Boiling potatoes on the playa is nigh-impossible. Something about altitude and desert conditions...but if you just take an hour to prep these mashed potatoes at home, you'll be camp hero. Read on for playa-specific cooking tips.
- 15 pounds of peeled, cut potatoes (preferably Yukon Golds, though other types will do)
- 4 pounds of bacon (hickory smoked adds a nice touch)
- 2 pounds of butter, room temperature
- 2 cups of half-and-half
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- AT HOME: Fill a large stewpot half full of water and bring to a rapid boil. Note that if you're making this dish at full quantity, you will need two pots of boiling water.
- Add your potatoes and half-cover. Let boil for 20 minutes, or until potatoes feel soft enough to eat when poked with a fork.
- Drain water and discard. Add half of your dairy ingredients and a first round of seasonings. Mash until dairy is just mixed in. Taste and let your palate guide you as to how much more you want to put in. Mix in dairy and seasoning until it tastes good enough to serve as normal mashed potatoes. Just be careful not to overmash as you're mixing, or the potatoes will get gluey.
- Scoop your finished potatoes into freezer ziplocs and make flat packs. Freeze them, along with the uncooked bacon. They will serve well to keep your cooler cold, and will stay frozen several days.
- IN THE DESERT: When you're ready to serve this meal, let the potatoes and bacon defrost several hours ahead if you can. Then, fry up your bacon and set aside. Make sure to reserve the bacon grease. Stand a guard at camp perimeter, since the smell of bacon will attract packs of hungry burners. (Ever see Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds?)
- Reheating potatoes on the playa can be challenging, but I've had good success with just stirring them in giant fry pans. Use bacon grease in the pan as needed. Microwaving not an option...the water molecules just don't seem to respond correctly for microwave heating.
- Cut your cooked bacon into big chunks and mix into the potatoes.
- While you have been in the desert your body chemistry has been changing, and your palate has adjusted accordingly. Go ahead and add bacon grease and salt until it suits your altered taste buds. It will be much more than you think, so try not to be horrified. Just eat and enjoy!
Shopping tip: You can buy Yukon Golds by the 15-pound sackful at Costco, along with both hickory bacon and butter in four-pound packs. Round it out with a half gallon of fresh half-and-half (just $2.99!) and you have the key ingredients needed for this taste treat.
Author's note: If you're making bacon mashed potatoes at home, you don't need to add bacon grease on top of the butter. Simply substitute bacon grease for one-third of your usual quantity of butter, and you'll achieve the right taste balance.