The potato is one of the world’s most popular vegetables and is grown in almost every country around the world. There are many different varieties native to each country and each has its own unique quality and properties. As a result, the potato is very fitting to many different cooking styles and is arguably the most versatile staple food on the planet.
Potatoes offer a lot of nutritional value, are low in calories, and contain no fat or cholesterol. Most of their vitamins are contained just below the skin which is why it is often suggested that potatoes are cooked in their skins and then peeled.
Buying and storing potatoes:
When choosing potatoes, make sure they are firm with smooth, tight skin. Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place for maximum shelf life and food safety. Exposure to light turns them green which results in a bitter taste and a burning sensation in the throat and mouth. For this reason, many people store potatoes in a “root cellar.” Since this is isn’t practical in the Southern United States where most homes do not have a cellar, we store ours at the bottom of our pantry. Raw potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator.
Place whole potatoes in a pan and boil until fork tender. Allow the potatoes to cool enough that they can be handled before slipping off the skins.
To steam potatoes, place them in a steamer over a pan of boiling water and cook them gently until they are tender.
Mashing or Creaming:
For rustic mashed potatoes, boil the potatoes and then drain well. Add a piece of butter, season, then mash.
For mashed potatoes without the skins, remove the skins and mash as described above.
Simmer the potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and then shake them in the pan to rough up their skins. Put potatoes onto a roast pan or rimmed baking sheet and cook at 425 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
For deep frying, the temperature of the oil is very important in the deep fryer.
Most varieties will bake but avoid those with thin skins. Scrub the potatoes and prick the skins with a fork as a vent for steam.
Types of potatoes:
Russet and Idaho Potatoes:
Often called baking potatoes, this is the most popular type of potato in the United States. Russets have a thick, rough, dark brown skin with a white flesh that becomes light and fluffy when cooked. This variety is available year-round and are excellent when used in baking, mashing, frying, and roasting. This is a very good all-purpose potato. Russets are sometimes referred to as “old potatoes.”
Round White Potatoes:
This variety is grown in the Eastern United States and is often referred to as boiling potatoes. These potatoes have a light tan, thin, freckled skin, and A white flesh center. They produce a firm, creamy texture when cooked making them another good all-purpose variety.
Round Red Potatoes:
Most commonly available during late summer and early fall. , Red potatoes have a light rosy red skin and a white flesh center. They have a firm texture which is best used in salads, roasting, boiling and steaming. Red potatoes are sometimes referred to as “new potatoes.”
Long White potatoes:
These potatoes are long and oval in shape. These are similar to Russets but have grey-tan skin. These are grown primarily in California and are sometimes called California long whites. These all-purpose potatoes have a firm creamy texture and can be used in most potato preparations.
These small, thumb-sized potatoes are also called Baby Long White Potatoes. These are very popular when splitting in half and roasting.
Yellow Flesh Potatoes:
This variety has become very popular across the United States. Yukon Gold has a buttery yellow to gold skin and yellow flesh. These potatoes have a moist flesh when boiled making them perfect for mashing or creaming.
Blue and Purple Potatoes:
These potatoes are mainly available in fall and have a subtle nutty flavor and a blue flesh. Their texture is beat-suited for steaming and baking but can be found fried as potato chips (crisps) as well.
This term refers to any young potatoes which have not reached maturity. They are most often boiled, steamed, or pan-roasted whole.
Sweet Potatoes and Yams:
Sweet potatoes have an orange-brown skin with orange flesh. They are best fried, boiled, or mashed. Yams have a dark brown bark-like flesh with a dry, starch off-white to yellow flesh. Most true yams are imported into the United States from the Caribbean.