Potatoes

Mashed, roasted, french fried or baked-how do you like your potatoes? One of the world's most popular vegetables, potatoes were cultivated by the ancient Incas in Peru thousands of years ago. Potatoes are grown in a number of varieties, including ones with purple or pink skin and flesh. Since some are better for baking than boiling, be sure to check out the descriptions of the most common types below before you start cooking.

Varieties

Potatoes are either high, medium or low in starch, and different starches work better for different cooking methods. To figure out the starch content, simply cut through a raw potato with a knife. High starch potatoes leave a creamy white residue on the blade. The less residue the less starch.

Idaho & Russet Potatoes

Also known as "baker's potatoes", these potatoes are high in starch & low in moisture. The higher the starch content the more granular & dry a potato will be after it is cooked, making these potatoes more desirable for frying as they are less likely to splatter or absorb grease. As with all potatoes, the starch content will increase as the potato ages.

All-purpose or Chef's Potatoes

These potatoes have a relatively balanced amount of starch and moisture. They're usually found in salads, scalloped or other casserole style potato dishes, and soups. All-purpose potatoes tend to hold their shape after they are cooked.

New Potatoes

This term applies to any variety of potato that is harvested when it is small and less than 2 inches in diameter. The skin of a new potato is tender and does not need to be removed prior to cooking or eating. The starch content in these potatoes is low and their water and sugar content is high. Their naturally sweet, fresh flavour is most enhanced when they are boiled or steamed.

Availability

  • All year round
  • New potatoes are the exception as they are usually sold only in the spring and summer

Purchasing

  • Select firm, heavy, smooth, well-shaped potatoes that are free of wrinkles, cracks and blemishes. Avoid any with green-tinged skins, sprouting "eyes" or buds, wrinkled skin or soft dark areas.

Storage

  • Store potatoes for 2 to 3 weeks in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. Warmth and light encourage sprouting and shriveling. They may be stored in a paper or burlap bag. Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator.
  • Never store potatoes near onions as gases given off by the onions cause potatoes to spoil faster.

Preparation

  • Scrub potato skin before cooking with a vegetable brush to remove any embedded dirt and sprouts.
  • Trim away any green-tinged skin or flesh as it tastes bitter and can be toxic if eaten in large amounts. (The green colour is caused by prolonged exposure to light.)
  • To peel, use a vegetable peeler to remove as little flesh as possible. Cut out any deep "eyes" or blemishes.
  • As you peel potatoes, place them in a bowl of cool water to prevent browning. Drain well and pat dry just before cooking.

Cooking Know-How

Whatever cooking method you use, choosing the right potato is key to achieving perfectly cooked spuds.

  • Boil: In a heavy saucepan, cover potatoes with water. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until fork tender. Uncover and drain immediately.

    Best potatoes to use: Low starch new potatoes, red potatoes or medium starch all-purpose; such as Yukon gold.

  • Mash: Drain and peel boiled potatoes. Mash with a potato masher or ricer. Gradually add warm milk until fluffy and smooth. Add butter, salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste.

    Best potatoes to use: High starch Idaho or russet, or all-purpose; such as Yukon gold.

  • Bake: Wash skin and pierce with a fork several times to allow steam to escape. Bake at 400ºF on oven rack or baking sheet for 1 hour until fork tender.

    Best potatoes to use: High starch Idaho or russet, or all-purpose; such as Yukon gold.

  • Roast: Heat oven to 400ºF. Toss cut-up potatoes with enough olive oil to coat lightly. Season with salt and pepper and any fresh or dried herbs, such as parsley, rosemary or thyme. Arrange in even layer on shallow baking pan. Roast 20 to 40 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

    Best potatoes to use: Low starch new potatoes, red potatoes or all-purpose such as Yukon gold.

  • Microwave: Pierce skins: place on paper towel or microwaveable plate. For two or more pototoes, arrange narrow ends toward the centre. On HIGH, cook 1 medium potato 4 to 6 minutes, 2 potatoes 6 to 8 minutes and 3 potatoes 8 to 12 minutes. Turn halfway through cooking. Let stand 5 minutes and check with fork. If necessary, cook 1 to 2 minutes more.

    Best potatoes to use: High starch Idaho or russet.

Tips

  • Get creative with baked potato toppings and turn those spuds into a hearty main dish. Use a variety of cooked veggies or other ingredients and top them off with sour cream; crumbled cooked bacon; or your favourite Kraft Shredded Cheese or Kraft Dressing.
  • Jazz up mashed potatoes with garlic, fresh herbs, Philadelphia Cream Cheese or Kraft 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese.
  • Toss chunks of buttered boiled potatoes with Kraft 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese and chopped fresh parsley.
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