A short history of potatoes
Potatoes are native to South America, and have been a life-sustaining staple for South American peoples for millennia. They were purple in colour back when Spanish explorers sailed them over to Europe, and later on in Ireland, failing potato crops launched a wave of Irish immigration to North America. Remember back in the '90s how the simple, benign potato revealed to the world that Dan Quayle just wasn’t US presidential material? Too young to remember? He was publicly humiliated while taking part in a grade school spelling bee. He added an ‘e’ to "potato". Oops. He was dropped like a…ahem…hot potato.
So, class, we’ve established that potatoes have a rich and fascinating history and they're major players on the world stage. But most importantly, potatoes are darn versatile, nutritious and delicious any way you slice them.
Here are some of the most delicious uses for potatoes:
1. Boiled and smashed
This is the simplest treatment and a great way to show off the pure, delicious flavour of your potatoes.
Easy method: Just wash, cut in half and boil until a knife slides into the flesh easily. Drain and let dry for a moment. Tumble onto a platter or into a shallow bowl, smash with the back of a fork, then drizzle with olive oil. Add a sprinkling of sea salt, a grinding of fresh pepper and if you want, a few shaving of Parmigano or pecorino cheese. If there’s gravy or warm broth on the table, that’s a delicious addition too.
Who doesn’t love buttery, creamy mashed potatoes? It’s the ultimate in comfort and they can be as simple or as elegant as you make them.
Best mashing basics:
1) Once drained, put the potatoes back into the pot over the lowest heat possible to evaporate any water. Give the pot a couple of good shakes.
2) Hand-mashing or using a potato ricer gives the fluffiest results.
3) Heat your liquid—milk, cream, broth—before adding it to the potatoes.
Tip: Mashed potatoes can be made ahead and frozen, provided they contain enough butter, cream or oil.
Page 1 of 3 -- Discover how to make restaurant-quality mashed potatoes plus potato salad tricks on page 2.
How to make restaurant-quality mashed potatoes:
Think of potatoes as a blank canvas on which to paint a masterpiece. Think of the pantry and fridge as a palate full of wonderful colours.
Here are some palate-pleasing matches, beyond Stompin’ Tom’s proclamation that “ketchup loves potatoes”:
Aromatics: garlic (fresh or sweet roasted), onion (fresh or fried), scallions, leeks
Fats: butter, olive oil, duck or chicken fat, bacon drippings
Herbs: chives, thyme, rosemary, parsley, coriander (cilantro), dill, mint
Spices: sea salt, pepper, curry, cumin, chili
Cheeses: cream, goat, cheddar, Parmesan, pecorino, ricotta, almost any really!
Dairy: sour cream, yogurt, heavy cream
2a. Mashed potato leftovers:
Stir in an egg, form into patties and fry: viola! potato cakes. Leftover mashed potatoes can also be added to soup for creamy thickness or used to top a fish bake or casserole.
3. Potatoes in a salad
Cold, cubed cooked potatoes are a perfect addition to salads. In India, papri chaat is a wonderful concoction of tender cubes of potato, chickpeas and crispy pastry bits in a tangy yogurt tamarind dressing. German potato salad is served warm with a simple vinaigrette. The French add tiny, boiled new potatoes to Salade Niçoise, and of course what picnic would be complete without a creamy, mayo-based potato salad?
For your next potato salad, try something new:
• instead of mayo, use thick yogurt and ricotta. And instead of chives, try mint. It’s super refreshing.
• Add curry powder and a good squirt of lime or lemon juice to mayo then toss with potatoes, chick peas, nuts, cubes of apple or raisins. Garnish with fresh coriander.
Page 2 of 3 - discover a last-minute meal trick nice enough to serve drop-in guests plus the benefits of potato skins on page 3 >>
<< Find smashed and mashed potato recipes on page 1
4. Shredded potatoes
Use a box grater or food processor to grate raw potatoes. Shredded potatoes can easily be added to soups and stir-fries.
To make a classic potato rösti (a popular shredded potato dish of Swiss origin) heat butter and oil in a heavy bottom pan – cast iron is best – add shredded, seasoned potato and pat into an even layer about 1-inch thick. Cook over medium heat until browned, then flip.
Rösti is divine with smoked, poached or baked salmon and dilled sour cream.
5. A last-minute, impressive meal
Eek! Unexpected brunch or lunch guests? Pop a potato or two - scrubbed and pricked with a fork - into the microwave. Cook on high until just slightly soft, about 4 minutes. Slice or roughly chop and toss into a pan with olive oil or butter or a bit of both (my fave way), some chopped onion, a couple of handfuls of frozen broccoli or cauliflower, chopped bacon, ham or sausage if you have it, salt and pepper and fry, stirring often. When almost done, nice and brown, pat down into an even layer then crack eggs over top, salt and pepper the eggs, and cover for a few minutes until eggs set. Perfect with a side salad, baguette and mimosa.
Sidebar: To peel or not to peel
If you leave the peel on, you're consuming much of the vitamins, minerals and fibre that make potatoes so great. Give potatoes a good scrub, cut away any green parts and ‘eyes’ or those little sprouted nubbins, and your unpeeled potato is ready to eat. Skins, especially the red ones, add visual appeal too. And no, those potato skins down at R.K. McGreasy’s stuffed with bacon, sour cream and Cheddar are not health food. Nice try, though.
<< Page 3 of 3 - find restaurant-quality mashed potato tips on page 2, and tasty smashed potato recipes on page 1.