January 30, 2006

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The Sad Death of Ketatoes, and How To Cope With It

As long-time readers are aware, I was never a huge fan of low carb specialty products. I spent a lot of time urging folks to base their diet on meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds - real, unprocessed food - and to use the low carb specialty products cautiously, as a treat, or to deal with cravings.

Still, there were a few products that made their way into my kitchen regularly, and one of them was Ketatoes. For those of you who never encountered them, Ketatoes were the low carb equivalent of instant mashed potatoes, and came in several flavors - sour cream and chive, bacon and cheddar, that sort of thing.

The regular, plain Ketatoes were the ones I used, but I never used them according to package directions - which were basically, "Mix with hot water, add butter, salt and pepper," very much like regular instant potatoes. Prepared this way, I found Ketatoes had an odd, slimy, gummy texture, probably due to the high oat fiber content.

What I used Ketatoes mix for instead was to add a potato-y flavor to that old low carb standby "Fauxtatoes," aka Pureed Cauliflower. Adding f Ketatoes mix to pureed cauliflower yielded a dish that was remarkably like mashed potatoes in both texture and flavor, but still with far fewer carbs. I called this The Ultimate Fauxtatoes, and came up with many variations.

From there, I branched out to using Ketatoes mix to add a potato flavor to things like Irish Stew and UnPotato Soup. These recipes were very successful. As a result, several recipes using Ketatoes mix wound up in 500 More Low-Carb Recipes and in 200 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes.

So imagine my dismay when, between the time those books went to the printer and when they hit the bookstores, I learned that Ketatoes mix had gone off the market. Argh. Argh squared. I have rarely been so frustrated.

In the intervening year I've spent a little time trying to come up with an alternative. One, of course, is to simply make traditional Fauxtatoes, as we have for years - they're tasty in their own right, and absolutely dirt low in carbs. And Cream of Cauliflower Soup, like the one in 500 Low-Carb Recipes, is awfully good too. But my Irish Stew recipe just isn't the same without a potato flavor in it. And my mashed-potato-loving husband had come to really love having his Fauxtatoes have a genuinely potato-y flavor.

Thus arose Faux-Po. Faux-Po is very simple: Using my microwave (as I always do to steam vegetables) I cook half a big head of cauliflower with about 6 ounces of actual potato - that's about half a medium-sized potato. When they're both tender, I use my hand blender to puree them together. (If you don't have a hand blender, you could use a regular blender or your food processor's S-blade.) To this I add butter, salt and pepper for basic Faux-Po. Assuming that this is 4 servings, each will have about 8 grams of carbohydrate, with 1 gram of fiber, for a usable carb count of 7 grams. This is actually a lower carb count than The Ultimate Fauxtatoes recipe as it appears in 500 More Low-Carb Recipes.

You can of course vary Faux-Po just as you could The Ultimate Fauxatoes - add a little sour cream or buttermilk, plus minced green onions, or blend in a chipotle pepper and some shredded cheddar. With a steak, Balsamic Faux-Po is nice - along with the butter and salt, add a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, and give the whole thing a little extra shot of pepper.

This ratio - a half a big head of cauliflower to 6 ounces of potato - works well for Cream of Cauliflower and Potato Soup, too. Heat a little butter, oil, or bacon grease in a big saucepan, and saute a diced onion, and maybe some celery, until it's soft. Then add the cauliflower and potato, cubed, along with chicken broth. Simmer until the cauliflower and potato are soft. Scoop out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and puree in your blender or food processor (or just puree everything in the pot if you have a hand-blender.) Add browned ham cubes or sliced smoked sausage, simmer for another twenty minutes or so, salt and pepper to taste, and you've got pure ambrosia for a cold, nasty night.

My original decarbed Irish Stew called for layering chopped cauliflower, diced turnips, a sprinkle of Ketatoes mix, cubed lamb, and salt and pepper, repeating the layers till you had a Dutch oven-full. Then you added water to barely cover, and simmered it very slowly for several hours. Eventually a little more Ketatoes mix was added to the gravy while thickening it with our usual guar or xanthan gum.

Now instead I grate one baking potato, and put a thin layer of grated potato over the more substantial layers of cauliflower and turnip. In the long, slow simmering, the potato mostly dissolves, imparting a potato-y flavor to the whole stew. (This is why you need a baking potato rather than a boiling potato, like red potatoes - the mealier baking potatoes are more likely to break down, which is what you want. A russet or an Idaho baker is about right.)

I haven't reworked every recipe that formerly used Ketatoes, but I expect that this sort of adaptation will work with all of them. The important figure to keep in mind is that each 6 ounces of potato will add 31 grams of total carb with 3 grams of fiber to the total recipe. That's 28 grams of usable carb - that's the number you want to divide by the number of servings to figure out how many extra grams of carb you'll be getting.

Now let's hope they don't stop making low carb tortillas. I have a hunch that would be a much harder problem to solve.

Posted by HoldTheToast at January 30, 2006 10:15 PM