Proud of Potatoes!

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A few of the potatoes, there are red, yellow fingerlings and Peruvian blue growing.

I harvested a few potatoes two weeks ago and was quite proud of my potatoes!

Somewhere, I read that they are supposed to dry a couple of weeks before you eat them so I put them in a bag and let them be until last night.

Look at the inside!

Look at the inside!

Scrubbed potatoes were cut and placed into a pot with cold water and put over high heat. Once the water boiled, salt and herbs were added to water to steep flavor into the potatoes as they cooked.

You can learn more about potato varieties on my post: All About Potatoes

Boil until the potatoes are done, drain and season with snipped chives and a small dab of butter  or olive oil if you like.

YUM!

YUM!

The Peruvian Blue Plant

The Peruvian Blue Plant

The flower

The flower

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So far, it has been quite fun to grow the potatoes. The Peruvian Blue potato plants are actually quite lovely. I’ve kept adding more soil to mimic “hilling” and hopefully, this will result in decent results meaning actually having some potatoes.

I showed the first harvest to Robert he said “looks like its going to be a long winter.” I do hope there are more potatoes to find when it is time! It’s like finding buried treasure when it comes time to dig them out of the ground.

I grew the Peruvian Blue in a 55 gallon purple Rubbermaid bin that I drilled drainage holes in the bottom to drain excess water.

Someone told me that the bags rotted, a pot would have to be quite large so since I had a bunch of bins, one became the container to grow Peruvian Blue Potatoes.

Someone else told me of a large garbage can with a door cut into the side so you could open the door, reach in and harvest a dinners worth of potatoes, close the door and the plant carries on.

How cool is that idea?!

I’d have to think of how to build something though as I’m not to sure everyone would agree on a garbage can with a door cut into the side, growing a potato plant as part of the landscaping.

Now if I lived on a farm . . .

My tomatoes are pitiful. Blossom drop plague. But at least we have a few potatoes.

How to Boil Potatoes for Making Mashed Potatoes

To make perfect mashed potatoes, you need to use the right kind of potato.

Russet potatoes are the potato of choice because of their high starch, low moisture content.

Read All about Potatoes  to learn which kind you choose for different dishes.

Wash, peel and cut potatoes into uniform sizes so they cook at the same rate.

Wash and peel to potatoes. It is advisable to use 1 potato per person plus 1. Left over mashed potatoes can be used in many ways and you will be lucky if there are any left over.

Put the cut potatoes into a sauce pan and cover them with COLD water.

Cover cut potatoes with cold water; bring to a boil.

Once the potatoes boil, add salt. Please don’t forget to add salt while boiling the potatoes. If you do, you will be left with very bland potatoes. Remember potatoes absorb flavor best while hot.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain. Process the potatoes through a ricer to produce perfect mashed potatoes.

Once the water comes to a boil. test to see how done the potatoes are. They should be almost done when they come to a boil.

Drain the potatoes when they are done.

Press the cooked potatoes through a ricer to get a fluffy lump-free texture.
A ricer is a good investment. This one belonged to Tyler’s grandmother. She used it to make spaetzle and soup noodles made with Romano cheese and lemon.

After ricing your potatoes will be light and fluffy.

In a small sauce pan, Bring 1/2-1 cup of cream to a boil. Add 2-3 tablespoons of butter to the hot cream, melt the butter. Carefully add just enough hot cream and butter to the potatoes to just moisten them and bring them together.

Be careful of over stirring which would cause the potatoes to get gluey, which isn’t very appetizing.

Adjust the seasonings with kosher salt and white pepper (so you don’t see black pepper flecks in the nice white potatoes).

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

To serve, you can mound them with a spoon, scoop or my favorite way is to pipe them out using a smooth tip, in decorative designs on the plate.

We used to do this at the restaurant and I always loved how it looked.

These are some of the ways to pipe mashed potatoes onto a plate.

So, there you have perfect mashed potatoes.

What can you do with left overs?

Make potato pancakes, add scallions and make potato scallion cakes, use them to thicken cream soups. Use left over mashed potatoes to top a casserole or to make Shepard’s Pie.

If you wanted to make them more low-fat, skip the cream and butter and use chicken stock instead. I would still use a bit of butter, but you won’t need much.

Bon Appétit!

All About Potatoes – What is the difference?

In this post, I will attempt to explain all about potatoes, explain the varieties available and when to choose one over another.

What is the difference between potatoes?

Red skin and Russet Potatoes

Next time you go shopping for potatoes, you will have a lot more knowledge about them after reading this post.

Have you ever:

  • Tried to make french fries from scratch only to have them turn out limp and soggy?

  • Tried to make potato salad or put nicely diced potatoes in a soup only to have the potatoes all fall apart?

  • Ever had your mashed potatoes turn out like glue?

  •         Had a baked potato explode on you in the oven? (Technique rather than variety is the secret)

It all has more to do with the potato you chose to make the dish with than your culinary skills, which I am sure are impeccable.

There are few categories in the potato world. Basically there are low-moisture, high-starch varieties and high-moisture, low-starch varieties.

The high starch varieties will fall apart if cooked in liquid but create light and fluffy mashed potatoes, crisp french fries and crispy chips.

Russet Potatoes – notice the dark, thick skin. Compare this to a new potato which has a thin tender skin.

The russet is the king of the low moisture-high starch category. These potatoes have thick dark skins as opposed to the thin tender skin of new potatoes.

Yukon Gold: thin skin, shallow eyes and golden flesh

The low starch – high moisture category belongs to red potatoes, Yukon gold, new potatoes. All potatoes with a tender thin skin will be high moisture, low starch potatoes.

These potatoes hold their shape in soups, casseroles and salads. Their tender skins are often deep-fried and used a receptacles for dips, spreads, chili and salsa.

Go to the store and buy some of each variety and compare them. Cut them, notice the textures. Cook some of both using a variety of cooking methods and compare results. Make notes so you can remember what you discover during this experiment.

Then we have sweet potatoes and yams.

Yams are not as high is sugar as sweet potatoes are but they taste just a good. Be careful with large varieties of these potatoes as they can get very stringy. Choose smaller, even sized, good color and smooth skins when selecting these potatoes for purchase.

Typically, sweet potatoes and yams can be used interchangeably and can be applied to a many cooking methods. The skins are not edible. Colors vary from pale yellow to deep orange and now there are garnet and purple varieties too.

Tiny new potatoes, fingerling potatoes, “potato gems” are all varieties that belong in the low starch, high moisture variety. their size and shape make them special in that you can cook them without peeling or cutting them if you wanted.

Fingerling potatoes

Some of this variety are so moist and tasty, you never miss the butter.

Have you ever seen a blue or purple potato? They really are blue or purple throughout. And they stay that way when cooked.

When you have purple asparagus or purple carrots, they lose the purple color when cooked.

Purple potatoes do not! For the most part, you can use them as a high moisture low starch potato, but they do mash well without turning into glue or paste.

Additional varieties from the potato world include Malanga, Boniato which take to any cooking method potatoes do.

Boniato, inside flesh is white. Use these as you would sweet potatoes.

Malanga

Here in the US, Melissa’s Brands offer several unusual varieties not only of potatoes but of all unusual, hard to find produce items.

Be adventurous and try a different kind of potato next time you go shopping.

When choosing what potato you want, if you want a potato to hold its shape as in soup, choose a high moisture low starch.

For fluffy mashed potatoes, select russets and run cooked potatoes through a ricer, not a mixer. perfect mashed potatoes is another post soon.

For great french fries you need a low moisture potato with high starch. Again russets are your best choice but you can also use “All-purpose potatoes” or “chef’s potatoes”. These labels indicate a moderate amount of starch and moisture and can be used in any potato recipe.

This is why sweet potato fries are mostly limp, they have too much moisture to get fluffy like russets do. Sweet potatoes also break down your frying oil faster due to the amount of natural sugar in the potato.

Quick run down:

Fluffy baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and french fries use russet potatoes

To hold the shape as in soup, potato salads, use red or white skin potatoes, you can also find blue ones in this category.

Never store potatoes in the refrigerator. The cold converts the starch to sugar.

Always store potatoes in the dark, in a dry place. I keep mine in a cabinet that isn’t used much.

If potatoes area stored in light, they will develop a green skin which is a toxic substance known as “solanin”

It would take a boatload of solanin consumption to have an effect, but it is an intestinal irritant. You choose.

There will be doing a series of posts of cooking potatoes and selecting the right one for the recipe in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, choose something different and play!

Inside of a purple potato; notice the color of the skin in the background.

Inside a baked garnet sweet potato; isn’t that a great color?!

Potatoes Au Gratin

I have been on a comfort food kick the past few days; Potatoes au Gratin are one of my favorite creamy delicious side dishes.

We always had them as a kid sometimes from scratch and sometimes from a box. The box variety always fascinated me.

The clear plastic looking chips, the powdered sauces, pour over boiling water and bake. Voila! Potatoes au gratin or Scalloped Potatoes all from a box. It was amazing stuff.

Making the same potatoes from scratch is far more satisfying, both nutritionally and esthetically.

First you have to get some good starchy potatoes – russets are the best as they are a ‘high-starch, low moisture’ category of potato.

Peeling is your option, but be sure to scrub them clean.

Have everything ready to go before you start slicing the potatoes so they don’t turn colors on you.

If you don’t know what I mean about potatoes turning color, take a slice and just let it sit out on the counter or on a plate. Look at it again in 5 minutes. It is oxidizing with exposure to air. Process potatoes quickly to avoid this color change happening.

“Green” on the potatoes is called “Solanin” and it is a sign of a potato that has been stored incorrectly with an exposure to light.  To avoid green potatoes, always store potatoes in a cool, dark place.

While it would take quite a bit of solanin to cause severe damage, it is an intestinal irritant. Simply cut away the green with your peeler. It isn’t very deep.

Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator, the cold converts the starch to sugar. Restoring to room temperature, over a few days will convert back to starch.

I made this dish for Robert and me but it would easily feed four. I used an All-Clad oval stainless baker pan, you can use any oven-proof dish you want. Adjust the quantities if using a large pan.

Potatoes Au Gratin

Serves 2-4

  • 1 or 2 large russet potato, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 whole large shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 container Herbs and Garlic Boursin cheese (or 1/2 cup any shredded cheese of your choice)
  • 1 cup heavy cream, brought to a boil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: Monterrey Jack cheese to top and get all golden brown

Method:

Thinly slice potatoes and shallots by hand or use a mandolin.

Be careful when slicing on a mandolin! Slicing on the mandolin ensures even slices so they cook at the same rate.
HINT: Slice shallots by hand.

Butter the dish, place a single layer of sliced shallots on the bottom of the pan, top with potatoes laid in a single layer, top with shredded cheese, spoon 1/4 cup of warm cream, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle a light sprinkling of flour and repeat layering until the dish is full. The top layer should be cheese.

Here is the layering sequence again:

  1. sliced shallots
  2. sliced potatoes
  3. cream
  4. salt and pepper
  5. flour
  6. cheese
  7. repeat leaving cheese as the top layer

Butter the dish, layer shallots then potatoes

Notice how the potatoes are shingled into a layer

Sprinkle flour over the cheese and potato layers

Keep alternating layers to the top

Top with cheese and bake

Place the filled dish on a parchment paper lined baking sheet to catch all spills. Place in a 400°F oven for 1 hour or until the dish is bubbling and golden brown on top.

We usually gobble these up pretty quickly but if you have any leftover, cut them into shapes and reheat either in the microwave or the oven until nice and warm in the center.

Variations on the theme:

  • Scalloped Potatoes: Leave out the cheese and make sure enough cream covers the top slightly. Top with breadcrumbs; Bake the same way.
  • Add your favorite herbs for an herbal variety.
  • Use different cheese: Goat cheese, Havarti, Asiago, fontina, add some bleu to the mix.
  • Use cheese that you know will melt nicely. If you want to make this with cheddar, please add some hoop cheese to it for melting purposes. Cheddar does not melt well all on its own.

I’m sure your family will enjoy this as much as mine does. Your home will smell wonderful as they cook. Since they are in the oven for so long, it is a good time to plan a baked chicken or pork chop to go along with the potatoes.

Sometimes I’ll have a plate of just potatoes au gratin for lunch, if there is any left over.

Plated Potatoes au Gratin