Thursday, May 12, 2011

Potatoes – Old and New!

One of the questions I get most often, is which type of potato should be used for which cooking method, so I thought I would clear that up this week. 

Old Potatoes: “Russets” or “Idaho” (if grown in Idahoare harvested when mature. Oblong with a rough, dark brown skin, they are low in moisture and high in starch so their white flesh does not keep its shape when cooked. They’re excellent for baking, mashing, whipping, and French fries

New Potatoes: is a term for any variety of potato that has been harvested before the sugar has converted to starch. They come to market in spring and summer, are thin skinned, very moist and have a waxy textured flesh. They keep their shape and are best for cooking whole, pan roasting, frying, sautéing, stewing, or boiling and used in potato salads. Most commonly found in our area are:

  • Long whites are light-skinned potatoes. They cook faster and are sweeter than Russets. To bake, wrap in foil and pierce both the foil and skin with a fork to release steam.
  • Yellows (Yukon Gold) have thin, yellowish or light brown skins, and buttery yellow flesh. They are low to medium in starch and have a moist, creamy, succulent texture with a buttery flavor.
  • Round whites are medium-sized, round with a light skin.  They are moist with low to medium starch. 
  • Reds are small to medium-sized with a rose to reddish-brown skin and a dense white flesh. They are low in starch and are sweeter tasting than whites.
  • Fingerlings are thumb-sized potatoes that are thin skinned. They are yellow fleshed with a rich, buttery texture, low in starch and hold together well after cooking. Varieties include ruby crescent, Russian banana, and long whites.
Try to buy potatoes where you can purchase them loose and inspect each one before selecting. Our farmers’ markets, produce stands and many local markets are have potatoes from local growers of good spuds (MacEnroes, Schroeders, Wigstons, and there are several good growers in Red Hook and Columbia County).  Look for potatoes that show no sprouts from the eyes, no cuts, dark spots or greenish tints. The green is often from being exposed to light for too long and can indicate a bitter taste or even harmful toxins. 

Potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator because the cold makes their starch turn to sugar. They thrive in the dark and are best kept in a burlap or paper bag. Quickly remove any potatoes that have sprouted or shriveled before they spoil the others. New potatoes are highly perishable and will only keep for a week or so. Do not freeze potatoes  – cooked or raw.

Wine Suggestions

Since wine is best paired with the protein in a meal, we are not giving any suggestions this week.  I am also not indicating amounts or timings because they vary according to size of potatoes and number of people you are serving.

Never Fail French Fries
Large russet or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick sticks
Peanut Oil
Salt and pepper
Rinse cut potatoes in a large bowl with lots of cold running water until water becomes clear. Cover with water by 1-inch and cover with ice. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days. Heat oil (until some drops of water cause a splatter) over medium-low heat in a 5-quart pot making sure that you have at least 3 inches of space between the top of the oil and the top of the pan, as fries will bubble up when they are added.  Drain ice water from cut fries and thoroughly pat dry. Increase the heat to medium-high and add fries, a handful at a time, to the hot oil. Fry until potatoes are soft and limp and begin to turn a blond color (5-7 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove fries from the oil and drain on paper towels. Turn off heat.  Let rest for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. When ready to serve the French fries,  reheat the oil and transfer the blanched potatoes to the hot oil and fry again, stirring frequently, until golden brown and puffed, about 1 minute. Transfer to paper lined platter. Pat dry with paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

Roasted Potatoes
Any New Potatoes (washed and patted dry - peeling is optional). 
Small White or Pearl Onions (peeled)
Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a roasting pan with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place the potatoes and onions in the pan, rolling them until they are coated with the oil and seasoning. Roast until golden brown (about 40-45 minutes)

French Potato Salad (I usually get asked to bring this to picnics and BBQs)
Any New Potatoes (washed and patted dry). 
Shallots (chopped)
Fresh Parsley
1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard. (I prefer, Maille, sold at Marona’s)
1/3 Cup of Red Wine Vinegar (I like Dal Raccolta Old Chianti Vinegar which I buy it at Quattros)
1 Cup of Vegetable Oil (I use Peant Oil)
Salt And Fresh Ground Pepper
Place mustard at bottom of the salad bowl in which you will serve the potato salad. Add vinegar and season.with salt and pepper. Add 1/3 of oil. Whisk until thickens. Add 2nd third of oil. Whisk until thicker. Add last third of oil. Whisk again. Congratulations! You just made your own vinaigrette sauce! Add the chopped shallots. Boil potatoes in their skins until soft. Drain and peel while still warm. The skin comes off very easily when cooked, but you will need a paper towel to hold the hot potatoes. Cut potatoes in halves or quarters and place while still warm into the vinaigrette (they won’t absorb the sauce once cooled).  Add half the parsley, salt, pepper and stir.  Add the rest of the parsley, salt, pepper and let stand (do not refrigerate).

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