food and wineIssue 24

In Season: Potatoes

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By Noel Daniel

By now, you’ve probably had potatoes prepared in at least five ways: as chips, fries, baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, or any other number of comfort food goodness. But potatoes are used in more ways than you’d think. Potatoes are fermented for vodka, as well as the Irish spirit potcheen and the Scandinavian akavit. And it isn’t just humans who find potatoes tasty; they’re a common feed for livestock.

Potato starch has been widely used across the food industry for its thickening properties. But it isn’t just the food industry that finds potato starch useful. The starch is a useful component of textile adhesives, and in paper manufacturing. In the search to find an eco-friendly, biodegradable plastic, potato starch has been helpful. Some companies in Maine have been putting the polylactic acids in potatoes which would have otherwise gone to waste to use in creating plastic products.

In India, a folk remedy for burns calls for potato skins and honey to be applied. Indian burn centers have started experimenting with using potato skins as a sort of bandage while burns heal. Meanwhile, researchers studying wound-response in plants find it easiest to study on potatoes. Their potato of choice is typically the Russet, which, if you aren’t a plant researcher, also makes the best baked potato.

Potatoes come in a number of varieties, many of which, such as the aforementioned Russet, are probably familiar to anyone who’s been down the produce aisle of their local grocery store: red potatoes, Yukon Gold, fingerlings. Did you know that potatoes also come in blue? Blue potatoes, sometimes also called purple potatoes, have a nuttier taste, and can be eaten baked or steamed. If you want to keep them nice and bright blue, though, the best cooking method is to microwave them, which will preserve that color a lot better.

If all of this tater talk has you hankering for a spud, you might consider trying something a little different with your tubers. Potato dishes are popular all around the world, so you have a lot of options to choose from. In India, they enjoy a sort of potato fritter called batata vada, which is eaten with chutney. Chorrillana, a Chilean dish, consists of french fries topped with sliced beef, sausage, fried onions and scrambled eggs, and sounds like a perfect weekend breakfast. Our neighbors to the north, Canada, enjoy their fries in poutine, smothered in duck gravy and cheese curds. And regional variations of potato dumplings can be found all across the world, from Russia, to Lithuania, Italy, and even Korea. And now that it’s in season—what’s stopping you from trying them all?


Hasselback Potatoes

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of finely chopped chives
  • Salt and Pepper

OPTIONAL:

  • Sour cream
  • Bacon crumbles
  • Shredded cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, then stir together the butter, olive oil, chives, and some salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Rest the potatoes, one at a time, in a pair of tongs, then slice the potato into thin slices, leaving a quarter inch at the bottom unsliced.
  3. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and brush on the butter mixture. Make sure to get in between all the slices. Bake until tender and crisp, typically from 55 to 60 minutes.

Optional: Slather your baked potatoes in sour cream, bacon crumbles, and shredded cheese for that fully loaded potato taste!


Ham and Potato Casserole

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups of potatoes, cooked and diced
  • 2 cups of ham, cooked and diced
  • 2 tbsp of margarine
  • 1 tbsp of flour
  • 1 dash of pepper
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup of chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F, then cook the onion and green pepper in margarine until tender.
  2. Stir in flour and pepper before adding milk and bringing to a boil, stirring constantly. Then, reduce the heat and add cheese and mayonnaise. Stir until cheese melts.
  3. Add the potatoes and ham, then put the ingredients into a casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.
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