That is, potatoes roasted in layers of food scraps. Yum?
There is a recipe in chef José Andrés' new cookbook, Vegetables Unleashed, that's a bit of a head-scratcher. Titled 'Compost Potatoes,' it goes something like this: Layer used coffee grounds in a baking pan. Nestle the potatoes into the grounds. Then dump the contents of your compost bin on top. Roast for an hour at 400 F.
It sounds hardly appetizing, but Andrés, who has called it "the most insane recipe I've come up with," sees an odd sort of logic to it. "It sounds crazy, but it makes sense: it was the same compost that goes into my soil where those potatoes grow."The result, according to the Washington Post test kitchen, tastes like ordinary roasted potatoes, except for the sides that were touching the coffee grounds, which tasted like stale potato coffee.
The recipe is, of course, a bit of a stunt, or food for thought, in Andrés' words. He is concerned about the amount of food that gets wasted worldwide and wants home cooks to think creatively about how to use it up.
This can get problematic, of course, as 'compost' is technically decomposed plant material that is used to fertilize plants. That is not what's going on Andrés' pan of potatoes, but rather vegetable and fruit scraps that he collects and puts into a compost bin, emptying daily. These could be banana peels, bell pepper seeds, avocado skins, orange rinds, apple cores, carrot peelings, and more – whatever you've been munching on lately.
The Washington Post makes it clear that you should not compromise food safety in an effort to use up scraps, although roasting for an hour at high heat is likely to kill most pathogens. Andrés stands behind his crazy formula, stating,
"Compost will not kill America. Compost will make America stronger and cleaner and richer. We cannot survive without good compost. The future of our land depends on good nutrients."
And he makes a valid point when he says that he doesn't worry about the safety of his own food scraps because he knows where they're coming from. All his vegetables come from farmers he knows, or from his own garden or greenhouse. He makes the compost that fertilizes his vegetables, and says he's eaten them directly from the ground.
A better, more appetizing use of compost bin scraps might be to make vegetable stock, or to stop peeling your vegetable – a suggestion from Bea Johnson that I've been doing lately and makes a difference in the quantity of scraps generated.