This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
The humble art of cooking this valuable esculent may be by some held in contempt; but I hold to the opinion that it requires more than ordinary care and attention to boil a Potato well. And it is not improbable that six dishes of the same variety of Potato, if cooked by six different persons, would all present diverse features in appearance and fitness for table. So much am I impressed with this idea, that when in the course of my Potato experiences I wish to test the table qualities of some new variety, I invariably perform the culinary operation myself, so as to be certain that the measure meted out to one kind is meted out to all alike. Presuming that my samples have been carefully scraped or peeled, I put them into a saucepan and cover them almost, but not entirely over, with water, putting in also a small lump of salt. A brisk fire must be burning in the grate, as therein lies the great secret of good cooking. "With sharp boiling, the water, by the time the Potatoes are done, should be reduced one-half, and that they are done can easily be ascertained by testing with a fork.
As soon as ready, the water should be strained off, and the saucepan placed on the edge of the fire, to cause the evaporation of all the remaining moisture, and in a few minutes they are ready for dishing up. If our cooks of all grades will follow this mode strictly, well-cooked Potatoes, presuming the sort is tolerable, will certainly result. A. D.
Can you boil a Potato? was the pertinent question put by a gentleman about to engage a cook. Yes! was the prompt reply; and how few of us, from the first-rate cuisinier to those who have little else to boil, would answer in the negative. Some assert they are better boiled in the skin, others again that they are far preferable pared; in this, as in many other things, we believe the happy medium is best.
Having tried various ways of cooking this valuable esculent, all more or less faulty, a short time since the following method was recommended to us; and as it combines simplicity with economy, perhaps some of your numerous readers might like to try it. Take a very narrow ring of the skin off the potatoes before boiling (in Kidneys the ring should be taken long ways), and when they are ready for table the remainder will fall off in two pieces, leaving the Potatoes like "flour-balls." "We have found Potatoes so treated much better than when boiled without the skin being cut; and as the skin leaves the Potatoes in the process of cooking, it does away with the objectionable method of peeling afterwards. "We also adopt the practice of putting new Potatoes in boiling water, and matured ones in cold water, not forgetting the salt in either case.
Those who have not the convenience of a hot plate will find by covering the Potatoes closely with a coarse cloth immediately they are strained, putting the lid of the pan close, and standing the latter near the fire, the Potatoes will keep hot and dry for a long time.
Perhaps the above may not be admissible in your pages, as belonging more to the cuisine than the garden department.