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What Should Matt Damon Have Done With All Those Potatoes in The Martian? Some Suggested Recipes.

The Martian’s Mark Watney (Matt Damon) poses with his potato plants.

Screengrab from trailer via 20th Century Fox

This post contains minor spoilers for The Martian.

In The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) devotes his considerable intellect and indomitable morale to surviving on the Red Planet for as long as it takes for NASA to rescue him. He has only enough prepackaged food to last him for 400 Martian days, so he estimates that he has to grow three years’ worth of food. Using human waste as fertilizer, he plants some potatoes from his storeroom and nurtures them to maturity, with the intention of subsisting on microwaved potatoes after his freeze-dried rations run out.

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Clearly, Watney has higher priorities than making his tuber-based diet as varied and interesting as possible. But what if, instead of figuring out how to communicate with NASA and hacking his rover, Watney focused on maximizing the deliciousness of his potatoes? Granted, it wouldn’t be easy: Potato leaves are poisonous, and the only other ingredients we see in Watney’s possession are ketchup, grape juice, instant coffee (which is soon depleted), olive oil, salt, and pepper. But if Watney were more interested in culinary excellence than in survival per se, he could certainly whip up a few decent meals with the fodder he has on hand.

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So I decided to come up with a few recipes that Watney could have cooked up if he really cared about making his dinner palatable. I am assuming that Watney has access only to the ingredients shown in the film. In terms of equipment, Watney is shown using plastic plates and cups, a knife and fork, and a microwave, which are apparently the only NASA-provided cooking equipment on the base. However, he uses a crewmate’s wooden crucifix to light a fire that he then uses to burn hydrogen and oxygen, thereby creating water. I shall therefore assume that Watney has access to an open flame and to water. I am also assuming that Watney, resourceful fellow that he is, won’t mind MacGuyvering himself some pots, pans, and additional utensils out of the random pieces of plastic and metal he has lying around, like the ones in the picture below.

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Screenshot from trailer via 20th Century Fox

Martian Rösti

  • Grate several potatoes on perforated sheet metal; squeeze as much water out of them as you can, then season with salt and pepper and mix well.
  • Coat the bottom of a metal tray with olive oil, and heat it a few inches above an open flame until it shimmers. 
  • Pat the grated potatoes into a ¼- to ½-inch circle in the middle of the tray, and cook, rotating the tray every now and then, until the bottom of the potato cake is golden brown. 
  • Slide the potato cake onto a plate, then flip it back onto the tray and cook until the second side is golden brown. 
  • Cut into wedges and serve with ketchup.

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Martian Roasted Potatoes With Grape Juice Reduction

  • Cut several potatoes into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
  • Transfer the chunks to a metal tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. 
  • Set the tray several inches above an open flame, cover the tray and flame loosely with a plastic tarp to retain heat, and cook, shaking the tray occasionally, until the potatoes are brown on the outside and tender within. 
  • Meanwhile, pour some grape juice into a plastic cup, season with salt and pepper, and microwave, stirring occasionally, until the juice is thick and syrupy. 
  • Drizzle the grape juice reduction over the potatoes and serve.

Martian Grape-Juice Braised Potatoes

  • Cut several potatoes into 2- to 3-inch chunks.
  • Coat the bottom of a metal tray with olive oil and heat it a few inches above an open flame until it shimmers.
  • Add the potato chunks, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are thoroughly coated with olive oil and beginning to brown.
  • Meanwhile, remove the curved plastic face shield from your space helmet and clean it—this will be your bowl. 
  • Transfer the potatoes to the helmet-bowl, add enough grape juice to cover the potatoes about halfway, and microwave, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and have absorbed most of the liquid. 
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Martian Mashed Potatoes With Coffee-Ketchup “Gravy”

  • Prick several potatoes with a fork a few times and microwave until tender. 
  • Cool until you can handle them, peel them if desired, and transfer to your helmet-bowl. 
  • Season with salt and pepper and mash with a fork, adding grape juice if necessary to achieve a smooth texture. 
  • Meanwhile, combine a few tablespoons of ketchup and a pinch of instant coffee in a plastic cup, stir in enough water to thin the mixture to a gravy-like consistency, and microwave until hot.
  • Serve the mashed potatoes topped with the “gravy.”

Martian “Curried” Potatoes

  • Cut several potatoes into 2- to 3-inch chunks.
  • Coat the bottom of a metal tray with olive oil and heat it a few inches above an open flame until it shimmers. 
  • Add the potato chunks, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are thoroughly coated with olive oil and beginning to brown. 
  • Transfer the potatoes to your helmet-bowl and add enough ketchup to coat the potatoes, along with a teaspoon of instant coffee. 
  • Add enough grape juice to moisten the potatoes, and microwave the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender. Serve warm.

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