The vegetable kingdom affords no food more wholesome, more easily procured, easily prepared, or less expensive, than the potato": yet, although this most useful vegetable is dressed almost every day, in almost every family, for one plate of potatoes that comes to table as it should come, ten are spoiled.
Wash them, but do not pare or cut them, unless they are very large. Fill a saucepan half full of potatoes of equal size (or make them so by dividing the larger ones), put to them as much cold water as will cover them about an inch: they are sooner boiled, and more savory, than when drowned in water. Most boiled things are spoiled by having too little water, but potatoes are often spoiled by too much: they must merely be covered, and a little allowed for waste in boiling, so that they may be just covered at the finish.
Set them on a moderate fire till they boil; then take them off, and put them by the side of the fire to simmer slowly till they are soft enough to admit a fork (place no dependence on the usual test of their skins' cracking, which, if they are boiled fast, will happen to some potatoes when they are not half done, and the insides (mite hard). Then pour the water off (if you let the potatoes remain in the water a moment after they are done enough, they will become waxy and watery), uncover the saucepan, and set it at such a distance from the fire as will secure it from burning; their superfluous moisture will evaporate, and the potatoes will be perfectly dry and mealy.
You may afterward place a napkin, fulded up to the size of the saucepan'. diameter. over the potatoes, to keep them hot and mealy till wanted.
This method of managing potatoes is in every respect equal to steaming them; and they are dressed in half the time.
There is such an infinite variety of sorts and sizes of potatoes, that it is impossible to gay how long they will take doing: the best way is to try them with a fork. Moderate-sized potatoes will generally be done enough in fifteen or twenty minutes.
The best way to clean new potatoes is to rub them with a coarse cloth or flannel, or scrubbing-brush.
New potatoes are poor, watery, and insipid, till they are full two inches in diameter: they are not worth the trouble of boiling before midsummer day.
Some cooks prepare sauces to pom-over potatoes, made with butter, salt, and pepper, or gravy, or melted butter and ketchup; or stew the potatoes in ale, or water seasoned with pepper and salt; or bake them with herrings or sprats, mixed with layers of potatoes, seasoned with pepper, salt, sweet herbs, vinegar, and water: or cut mutton or beef into slices, and lay them in a stewpan, and on them potatoes and spices, then another layer of the meat alternately, pouring in a little water, covering it up very close, and boiling it slowly.
Mix mashed potatoes with the yolk of an egg; roll them into balls; flour them, or egg and bread-crumb them; and fry them in clean drippings, or brown them in a Dutch oven.