Cooking School

All about cooking with potatoes

Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/Barcin Image by: Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/Barcin Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

All about cooking with potatoes

There's no denying the versatility and popularity of potatoes. When other more polarizing vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach, are being sized up at the dinner table, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would turn down these well-loved pantry staples.

In addition to being a familiar comfort food, potatoes carry great benefits: they're a complex carbohydrate (the good kind of carb), and they deliver on fibre, vitamin C and vitamin B. But not all spuds are created equal – some are better suited for certain dishes than others. Here are some quick tips and tricks to keep in mind when buying, storing and cooking with potatoes.

Different potato varieties
"When it comes to potatoes there are three basic categories: starchy, waxy and all-purpose," says Amanda Garbutt, recipe developer and host of the digital cooking show "The Hot Plate."

"Starchy potatoes are great for frying or baking. Waxy potatoes are the perfect addition to stews, soups and pot roasts because they won't fall apart. All-purpose are well, all-purpose, but still tend to work better as a substitution for starchy varieties," she explains.

Here are some varieties that fall under each category.

Starchy
Idaho
Russet
Jewel yam
Japanese sweet potato
Hannah sweet potato

Waxy
Rose Finn Apple
Russian Banana
Red Thumb
French Fingerling
La Ratte
Austrian Crescent

All-Purpose
Red Gold
Purple Majesty
Norland Red
Yukon Gold
Kennebec
All Blue

Heirloom potatoes (those that are grown from heirloom seeds rather than cross-bred) are generally more flavourful than what you'll find at your local supermarket. They also come in a wider array of colours, including dark blue and deep violet. Give them a try when you spot them at the farmer's market.

Find advice for cooking with potatoes on the next page.

Cooking with potatoes
One of the reasons why potatoes are so popular is because of their versatility. Try baking and roasting starchy potatoes or turning them into French fries. You can even mix them into certain doughs for breads and muffins. Waxy potatoes are wonderful steamed or boiled and also hold up well in potato salad recipes. When boiling potatoes, remember to start off with cold water as opposed to hot as it allows for more even cooking.

"I tend to stick with the standards, Yukon Gold and russet," says Derek Bocking, a sous chef and the food blogger behind Derek's Kitchen. "In the springtime and early summer I like to splurge on the tiny, expensive new potatoes. At that time of year, farmer's markets usually have baskets with mixed varieties of tiny young potatoes that are great for roasted potatoes or smashed potatoes."

One of the most beloved side dishes is, of course, mashed potatoes. This weeknight favourite can be quick and easy to make, too.

"Mashed potatoes are a great make-ahead side dish," says Garbutt. She suggests covering your potatoes with a thin layer of milk, cream, or oil before refrigerating to avoid developing a crust. Once you're ready to reheat, cover with tin foil and place over a pot of simmering water.

Buying and storing potatoes
When buying potatoes, look for produce that is firm and free of bruising. Avoid any with a green tint – this means they've been overexposed to light and are a producing a chemical called solanine. Ingesting too much solanine can actually make you ill.

Store your potatoes in a cool, dark place between 7 and 10°C. And although they work well together in many cooked dishes, avoid storing your potatoes next to onions. The chemical exchange in the fumes will lead to eye sprouts on the potatoes, and too many sprouts causes mushy potatoes.                                                                        

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Cooking School

All about cooking with potatoes

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