You think you’ve read the title wrong. It can’t possibly say Crusty Cheesy Coffee Potato Cups. Re-reading it, you find that it says exactly that. You’re probably fine with the crusty and cheesy part. After all, they make sense with potatoes. But coffee?
Put aside your initial reaction and try these two-bite morsels. You might not be able to eat just one.
I was a bit late this month in figuring out what dish to make for Progressive Eats. Because our theme is coffee, desserts and beverages were the natural choices. But there were already contributions in both those categories. Looking for an “empty” category, the only one without a link was side dishes. So I set off to figure out how to use coffee in a savory side dish. Not an easy task.
But, after a noodling around (or more precisely, googling around), I discovered research that supports unconventional flavor pairings based on a scientific theory called computational gastronomy. While I cannot grasp the intricacies of the scientific reasoning in “Flavor Network and the Principles of Food Pairing”, the lay explanation in a blogpost entitled “The Flavor Network” made perfect sense.
(I’ll definitely return to the blog that explained this theory. Called Science and Food and posted by a fun-looking group of UCLA scientists, it has all sorts of posts that I want to investigate further. But for now, back to flavor network theory and the pairing of coffee and potatoes.)
Basically, flavor network theory says that when ingredients contain the same flavor molecules, they can work well together even when they are an unconventional pairing in our culture. And, when two ingredients do not share flavor molecules with each other but they both have common molecules with a third ingredient, that third ingredient can form a flavor “bridge.”
What does this have to do with coffee and potatoes? Well, one of the scientists who was an author of the original flavor network paper used coffee and potatoes as an example of just such a flavor network pairing. I read about it in a recent article in Vice. While not exactly in a reputable scientific journal, that article was definitely at my level.
The combination of coffee and potatoes was intriguing enough to capture my fancy. Then, just to cover my bases, I added two other flavors that go well with coffee: bit of chili powder because I like the combination of coffee and chili powder in barbecue sauces; and sharp cheddar cheese because I read that it pairs well with coffee.
Lacking in scientific expertise, I tried these pairings (and maybe bridges) and liked the result.
You won’t be able to discern a distinctly coffee taste in these Crunchy Cheesy Coffee Potato Cups. However, as my taste-tester-in-chief will attest, they are scrumptious. I think the coffee lends a depth of flavor to these small savory bites. Try them and see if you agree.
By the way, after I created these mini muffin-sized potato cups, I realized that they aren’t that far in general concept from my Homemade Beer-Coated Tater Tots. Hmmm. I guess my Irish-American spouse’s love of potatoes has rubbed off on me more than I realized.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. Each recipe in our menu this month features coffee in some form: espresso granules, coffee grounds, brewed coffee, coffee extract, etc. Our host this month is Coleen from The Redhead Baker.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.
- BBQ Chicken Tamale Corn Pancakes with Coffee BBQ Sauce from The Heritage Cook
- White Chocolate Espresso Martini from SpiceRoots
- Espresso Coffee Cake with Dates, Walnuts and Espresso Glaze from Creative Culinary
- Coffee-Rubbed Flank Steak from Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Crusty Cheesy Coffee Potato Cups from Mother Would Know (you’re here!)
- White Chocolate Mocha Layer Cake from The Redhead Baker
- Frosted Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Crusty Cheesy Coffee Potato Cups
These savory delights are a two-bite combination of crust on the outside, and a soft, tangy inside. The unexpected ingredient, coffee, adds depth of flavor that will surprise you.
- 5 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
- 1/4 cup fine cracker or bread crumbs
- 1 & 1/2 pounds starchy potatoes, preferably mix of russet (Idaho or baking) and Yukon gold, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons whole milk or half and half
- 3 tablespoons strong coffee
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- 6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
- 1 tablespoon chives or green onions (scallions), minced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush, spread melted butter on each cup of a 24 mini muffin tin, then coat the cups with the cracker or breadcrumbs. Set aside. Divide the remaining melted butter about in half.
Put the potato cubes in a pot. Add cold water to about 1-inch above the cubes, cover and bring it to a boil. Uncover, lower the heat, and cook until you can pierce the potatoes with a fork, about 10 minutes after the water reaches a boil. Immediately drain the potatoes and put them back in the hot pot, tossing it for a few minutes just to let the last bit of moisture evaporate.
With half of the melted butter that remained after preparing the muffin tins, add the milk/half and half and the coffee. Warm those liquid ingredients and then pour them over the potatoes. Mash the potatoes.
Add the sour cream, half the shredded cheese, and the minced chives/scallions. As the mixture cools down, get ready to fill the mini muffin tins.
Using two teaspoons, put a small ball of mashed potato mixture into each mini muffin tin. Press down slightly, add most of the remaining cheese, then top off with a tiny piece of mashed potato mixture, followed by a dab of melted butter and a tiny sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese. The photo shows the various stages from right to left in the first row.
Bake the mini muffin cups for 30 minutes in the center of the oven.
When they are done, let the potato cups sit in the muffin tin for a few minutes. Once the muffin tin has cooled down a bit, slip a sharp knife around the edges of any muffins that appear to be stuck in the tin or to each other. Gently turn the muffin tin over on a wire rack and let the muffins slide out.
Let the muffins cool down for a few additional minutes before serving.
You can find all kinds of advice from various authorities as to what type of potatoes to use and how to best prepare them mashed. The general rule is that starchy Russet/Idaho/baking and/or Yukon gold potatoes work better than red ones for mashed potatoes. Cutting them into cubes makes the cooking go faster. If you want to leave the skins on, that's fine, as long as you wash the skin well.
It doesn't matter if you use "regular" or decaf coffee as long as the coffee is strong. I prefer a French or Italian Roast, but other dark or medium dark coffees should be fine too.
Do not be concerned if the mashed potato mixture mounds high in the muffin tins. As they bake, the mounds flatten.