Nov 8, 2012

Hot Potato

Although they’ve have gotten a bad rap lately with all the talk of low-carb or no-carb diets, potatoes are actually good for you.  It’s what we often add to potatoes that make them fattening or unhealthy; namely sour cream, butter or margarine.  Potatoes are fat-free, cholesterol free and high in fiber.  They are also a good source of potassium and vitamin B6. Potatoes are classified as “high” on the glycemic index and so are usually excluded from the diets of those watching their sugar intake. However, research demonstrates that people can include potatoes in their diet and still lose weight—as long as they don’t consume them in the form of French fries or topped with mounds of butter and sour cream.
Potatoes were first grown over 2000 years ago in South America.  They first arrived in the colonies of North America in the 1620’s but were not actively cultivated until almost 100 years later.   Despite its misnomer of “humble spud” potatoes were once worth their weight in gold.  During the 1880’s Gold Rush, gold speculators traded potatoes for gold when they were desperate for sources of vitamin C to ward off disease. 
Potatoes have gotten more interesting with the cultivation of new varieties. While most of us are familiar with russets, potato farmers have come up with new colors and flavors; read on. 
Fingerlings are small, slender “finger-sized” potatoes, Fingerlings range from two-to-four inches in length. They come in a wide range of skin and flesh colors – red, orange, purple, yellow and white – and most have a firm, waxy texture. Pan-frying enhances their robust flavor and brings out their wonderful nutty or buttery tastes.
Yellows or golds are well known through Europe and fast gaining popularity in the U.S.  One favored use is grilling. Its crispy skin enhances the dense and buttery texture. Grilling brings out its slightly sweet, caramelized flavor.
Relative newcomers to the market, purple potatoes have a deep purple skin with flesh that ranges from purple to almost white. The vibrant color and luscious taste make them perfect for salads. They are also delicious roasted, bursting with flavor.
Potato side dishes are a standby in millions of homes. The average American eats over 33 pounds of potatoes every year—that’s a lot of spuds. To keep things from getting boring you’ve got to come up with some diversity before you get the potatoes to the table.
 If you’re looking for something unusual, try a ricer.   A ricer looks sort of like an overgrown garlic press.  It has a large cup that holds boiled potato pieces.  Once you’ve filled the cup, press the handles together causing a flat metal plate down into the cup.  The potatoes are forced out through hundreds of small holes in the cup.  The result is fluffy little bits of potato that look suspiciously like rice—hence the name “ricer.”  Pour some of the sauce from your main dish meat or chicken over the “riced” potatoes and, voilá, you’ve got a tasty new side dish. 
For a simple potato side dish with loads of flavor, try this

12 to 15 baby red or yellow potatoes, unpeeled
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup light olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Scrub potatoes, put them in a large saucepan and cover with at least an inch of water. Add 2 teaspoon kosher salt to the water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook the potatoes until they are just tender and can be easily pierced with a metal or wood skewer. Make sure they are cooked through but don’t overcook. It should take about 25 minutes. Remove them from the water, and let them drain and sit for a few minutes on paper towels.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle the pan with some olive oil. Place the potatoes on the lined pan. Using the back of a large flat spatula, smash and flatten each potato by pressing down firmly.
Heat the oven to 400°F. Sprinkle the potatoes with the remaining teaspoon salt and pour the olive oil over them. Generously grind pepper over the potatoes.  Roast the potatoes until they’re crispy and deep brown around the edges, about 30 to 40 minutes, turning over once gently with a spatula or tongs halfway through cooking. Serve hot.
You can cook and smash the potatoes in advance. Refrigerate until needed; then place on pan, season and bake.
If French fries are your families’ favorites, cutting them has never been simpler.  A French fry cutter is specially designed to cut even strips of potato that will cook quickly.

5 russet potatoes, peeled and cut
3 cups canola oil
Kosher salt to taste

 For best results when making homemade French fries, keep the potatoes in a bowl of ice water until you are ready to fry them. 
Heat oil to 350 degrees F in a large heavy pot. Remove potatoes from ice water and pat dry on paper towels. Fry in batches for 10 minutes until they are just cooked through.  Remove from the oil and allow them to cool for a few minutes. 
Bring the oil back to 350 degrees and deep fry the fries for 10 minutes or until golden.  This double frying method gives you thoroughly cooked fries that are tender and not burnt. 
Remove fries and drain on cooling racks over paper towel. Sprinkle with kosher salt and serve immediately.

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