Potatoes are a staple item in most U.S. kitchens. We love potatoes, however you cook them—and there are a lot of ways to cook them! Potatoes are extremely versatile, and there is a seemingly never-ending stream of preparation ideas out there, always ready to suggest yet another recipe tip for potatoes.
In the carb-terrified world of today, some people have shunned the potato, or at least feel guilty when they eat one. But, they remain the fourth most-consumed crop in the world, the USDA indicates, after rice, wheat and corn, respectively. The Idaho Potato Commission points out that the potato is full of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, potassium and Vitamin B6, as well as fiber. Yes, the IPC says, the potato does contain carbs, but don’t be too quick to judge, they explain:
Carbohydrates are a major source of energy for the body. There are two types: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are found in many types of foods, from sweets to fruits and vegetables to milk. Complex carbohydrates may be referred to as starches. Grains and grain products, beans, and some vegetables and fruits provide complex carbohydrates. Potatoes contain both carbohydrate types.
Additionally, the IPC points out, the American Heart Association certifies the potato as one of their low-fat, low-cholesterol, makes-the-check-mark foods.
How Do We Prefer Our Spuds?
One reason potatoes may be thought of as an “unhealthy” food is the way we tend to prefer them. According to the USDA, we eat more processed potatoes than fresh:
Since 1970, use of processed potatoes has surpassed fresh use in the United States. Spurred by the innovation of frozen-french-fry processing techniques in the 1950s and the increasing popularity of fast food chains, processed potatoes composed 64 percent of total U.S. potato use during the 2000s (compared to 35 percent in 1960s). During the 2000s, U.S. per capita use of frozen potatoes has averaged 55 pounds per year, compared to 42 pounds for fresh potatoes, 17 pounds for potato chips, and 14 pounds for dehydrated products.
But, you don’t have to round out your meals with frozen fries or potato chips.
The Perfect Potato for Your Recipe
All About Potatoes says that there are thousands of potato varieties, but that they can be narrowed down to six main types for the average home cook: yellow, red, Russet, white, fingerling and blue. With these six types, you can make virtually any potato dish, they indicate, whether it be for breakfast, lunch or supper. Here is how the All About Potatoes website indicates each of these potatoes are best utilized in recipes:
- Yellow Potatoes: An "all purpose” potato, good for mashing, steaming, boiling, baking, roasting and frying. Some examples of yellow potatoes would include the well-known Yukon Gold and the lesser-known Yellow Finn.
- Red Potatoes: These potatoes have a firm texture, making them a good choice for soups or salads. And, although they are not an “all-purpose” variety, they are good for many types of preparations, including steaming, boiling, roasting, au gratin and scalloped potatoes. People often think of red potatoes as “new potatoes,” but there are many types of red potatoes available, including the Mountain Rose, Klondike Rose and Norland.
- Russet Potatoes: These are the potatoes most of us think of when we think of potatoes. They are high in starch content, and make great mashed potatoes and perfect bakers. They are also great boiled. This is the category Idaho Potatoes fall into, along with the less-famous German Butterball variety. Incidentally, Oregon Public Broadcasting recently reported that the Idaho Potato Commission is fighting an attempt by Turkey to trademark the use of "IDAHO." Besides the obvious question--why would Turkey be trying to trademark the name of a U.S. state?--one might wonder why the word has not already been trademarked by the potato growers themselves. Well, it has, in 10 countries, according to the OPB report. But, because each country has different trademarking standards, it is not possible to simply trademark something and have it stick everywhere—including Turkey, it appears.
- White Potatoes: This is a low-starch variety of potatoes, which makes them a good potato salad potato. They are also good for mashing, boiling, steaming, au gratin and roasting. Two examples are the Cal White and White Rose.
- Fingerling Potatoes: Typically a low-starch variety, fingerling potatoes are named after their shape. They are best for baking, boiling and roasting, and can typically be found loose in small bins rather than in a bag, so you can measure out as few or as many as you would like for yourself. Varieties include the French Fingerling, Austrian Crescent and the Russian Banana.
- Blue Potatoes: Kids love these potatoes. Sometimes their color leads to their being referred to as “purple potatoes” rather than blue, but whatever the shade, they are fun to see on a plate, and tasty, too. They are a medium starch potato, making them good for most anything you would like to use it for, including steaming, baking and boiling. Varieties include the Russian Blue, All Blue, Purple Majesty and, probably the best-known, the Purple Peruvian.
Ready for potatoes tonight?
Give this easy recipe for Roasted Red Potatoes a try!
What you’ll need:
Red Potatoes (Enough for your crowd; depends on your crowd and the size of reds you purchase, but it’s not difficult to eyeball.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 450. Wash potatoes and cut into one-bite chunks. Place in a bowl and drizzle well with olive oil. Generously shake on garlic powder and onion powder. Add pepper and salt to taste. If desired, add any other herbs or spices you like—rosemary and oregano are two excellent choices, or a bit of crushed red pepper if you would like some heat. Toss well. Pour into a baking pan, lined with aluminum foil and sprayed lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Place on the bottom rack of your oven. After about five minutes, give the pan a shake. After about 15 more minutes, shake pan again. Total cook time will be approximately 30 minutes.
What is your favorite way to cook potatoes, Huliq readers? Leave your comment below!
Image: From the Kitchen of Mechele R. Dillard