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On kitchen disasters

By Jenna Cho

Publication: theday.com

Published September 18. 2013 10:00PM   Updated September 18. 2013 11:06PM

The kitchen gods are plotting against me.

Where there should be a perfectly fluffy glazed lemon bread, there's a dense, sweaty brick that looks and tastes strangely like polenta. Where there should be whisper-thin, elegant chocolate chip cookies, there's smushed-up wrinkly old things.

And when you've got blackberry cake batter in the skillet and it looks just like it should and you're sliding that skillet into the oven -- but wait, you're only using one hand and the whole thing is getting really heavy and ooppfff, there goes the batter sliding right off the skillet and onto the bottom of the oven? That. Really. Sucks.

Sigh.

I had people to impress. Food columns to write. What was happening?

Kitchen fails are not part of the plan. I do not have time for them. I'm not sure what message the universe is trying to send me with all these kitchen disasters of late, but if it's to stop cooking, well, that's not happening. First, I get hungry too often. Second, I read way too many food blogs to ever stop wanting to try new recipes.

And third, when in doubt, stick to the recipes that won't fail you. The ones where you can swap one ingredient for another and still have the dish turn out totally awesome. The ones where you suddenly find yourself with a need to make food out of a pound of russet potatoes because it was buy-one-giant-bag-get-a-second-free and you decide one potato for lunch every day for the rest of the week sounds like a fine idea.

These guys look complicated, but seriously, they couldn't be easier. More straight-forward than French fries. Prettier and fancier than baked potatoes. Hasselback potatoes! Doesn't the name just make you think of David Hasselhoff?

I love the way the potato slices crisp up in the oven. Love the idea that simple slivers of garlic could infuse so much flavor into the whole potato. Every part of each potato tastes great - the sliced part, the bottom part holding the potato together, the baked garlic slivers.

Sunny Anderson, of Food Network fame, has a great, simple trick for slicing the potatoes up while ensuring the base of each potato remains intact, holding all the slices together. Just rest your potato on a wooden spoon and slice away. Some of the slices may come apart, but they'll just crisp up on their own and make for great snacking later.

The recipe calls for red new potatoes, but russets worked just fine for me.

Garlic hasselback potatoes

from foodnetwork.com

For the potatoes

1 pound red new potatoes (I used russet potatoes)

3 to 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the herbed sour cream

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Make the herbed sour cream by combining all the ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine butter and olive oil in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Resting the potato on a wooden spoon, slice each potato into slices that are a quarter-inch wide or thinner. A few slices may break free from the potato, but you want most of the slices to be held together by the base of the potato.

Add one or two slices of garlic between the slits you've created on the potato. Start at the center of the potato and work your way out. You don't need garlic slices in every potato slit, but the more the merrier, so if you've got the garlic, stuff them in there.

Toss each potato in the butter and olive oil mixture, then set down on a baking sheet, slices facing up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 1 hour, until the potatoes are cooked through and the tops of the slices have crisped up.

Serve with the herbed sour cream.

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