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You Say Potato

You Say Potato

Nearly everyone is happy to "say potato!" As a nation, we love the versatile tuber.

By FamilyTime

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Americans consume countless pounds of potatoes every year. A large portion of this is in the form of chips and French fries -- two popular snacks that, while tasty, do not show potatoes in their best light.

Potatoes can be so much more than a snack. They are as familiar and comforting on the supper plate as a cozy quilt is on a bed. They can also be elegant and jazzy, perfect party food for the most sophisticated affair.

Baking and All-Purpose Potatoes
Essentially potatoes come in two basic types: starchy and all-purpose. Both have their culinary uses, and both happily trespass on each other's territory.

Russets - the common so-called baking potato - is the best representative of a starchy, mealy potato. They are great for baking and mashing. They dry out and fluff when cooked, both desirable characteristics for home-cooked baked or mashed potatoes.

All-purpose potatoes are lower in starch. Most commonly, they are waxy white and red potatoes and may also be called boiling potatoes. They hold their shape when boiled, which makes them candidates for potato salads and gratins.

New potatoes are tiny, tender immature tubers, available only in the spring and early summer. They are very low in starch and are absolutely delicious simply boiled and served with butter and fresh herbs. New potatoes are also great grilled, roasted, and served at room temperature in salads.

Not all small red or white potatoes are new potatoes. Make sure they are thin-skinned and fresh.

Specialty Potatoes
These days, the markets are full of different kinds of potatoes. To those most used to the brown russet, the idea of a purple or golden potato is exotic.

The most common of these so-called gourmet potatoes are Yukon Golds, blue or purple, and fingerlings.

Because potatoes have been harvested in the Western Hemisphere for centuries, none of these is actually new. Try them - they taste similar to more familiar potatoes although Yukon Golds and fingerlings are especially buttery and blue and purple potatoes are dark all the way through.

These are best for mashing, boiling, grilling, and tossing in salads.

Selecting and Storing Potatoes
Choose firm specimens without soft spots or sprouting. Avoid any that have a greenish tinge.

All but the newest potatoes store well at cool, dark room temperature for about two weeks. New potatoes only keep for a few days.

Resist the urge to store potatoes alongside onions. While both potatoes and onions keep at cool room temperature, when stored together they produce a gas that causes both to spoil.

Do not refrigerate potatoes.

Cooking with Potatoes
Potatoes do not need to be peeled for many uses. It's essentially a matter of aesthetics. Many nutrients are in the skins, so if you can, eat them.

All potatoes should be washed well under cool running water and scrubbed with a vegetable brush. Even if you don't plan to peel, cut out the eyes (the buds) and any green spots.

Peel potatoes with a knife or scraper and if not using immediately, submerge in a bowl of cold water.

Boil potatoes in enough water for them to move about easily. Prick the skins before baking. And if deep-frying them to make homemade French fries, rinse them of excess starch and make sure the oil is hot enough.

Now, that's a snack!

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