Potatoes: the Ultimate Comfort Food
Daddy used to say, "I never met a potato I didn't like." Well, I totally concur. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't revere this versatile tuber. If folks avoid them, it's only because they're afraid of the "C" word. You know, carbohydrate. With all the talk about low-carb diets, some people are convinced that potatoes, along with other starchy foods, such as bread and pasta, are unhealthy choices. Well, no wonder we're resisting our favorite comfort food. While potatoes are indeed high in carbohydrates, that's actually a favorable characteristic. Carbs are our body's preferred fuel source, and potatoes are rich in energy-producing carbohydrates, not to mention other essential micronutrients. Here we give you a glossary of potato terms, some helpful hints, and two healthful and great-tasting recipes.
- Russet--The most widely used variety, russets are favored for baking, roasting, mashing, and frying. They're high-starch potatoes and have netted brown skin and white flesh that's a little grainy and fluffy when cooked.
- Long whites--These firm, waxy-textured potatoes are popular for boiling, roasting, and for use in salads, stews, soups, and scalloped dishes because they hold their shape well after cooking. Long whites are medium-starch potatoes and have an oval shape with thin, light tan skin.
- Round whites--These tubers have a firm texture that allows them to hold their shape after cooking which, like the long whites, makes them ideal for salads, roasting, steaming as well as mashing. They have a smooth, light tan skin and waxy texture.
- Round reds--These rosy-skinned, white-fleshed potatoes are commonly referred to as new potatoes (which, technically, refers to all potatoes that are prematurely harvested). Round reds are perfect for potato salads, roasting, boiling, and frying because they have a firm, waxy texture.
- Yellow flesh potatoes--Yellow flesh potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, are often described as having a mild buttery texture. Their flesh makes them popular for roasting and mashing.
- Blue and purple potatoes--The flesh of these ranges from white to lavender to dark blue. To preserve the color, microwaving is the preferred method, but steaming and baking also work well. These colorful spuds have a somewhat nutty flavor and aroma.
- Avoid buying potatoes that are wrinkled or soft. Trim off any sprouts or green areas.
- Store potatoes in a cool (ideally 45° to 50°), dark place that's well ventilated. Refrigerated potatoes will develop a sweet taste because starch converts to sugar; increased sugar causes potatoes to darken when cooked.
- Eat your greens--and whites too! Potatoes, as well as onions and cauliflower, contain anthoxanthins, food pigments that these vegetables their white hue act as antioxidants (promising cancer fighters). Potatoes also contain glutathione, an antioxidant that may protect us from cancer. Along with avocados, asparagus, squash, okra, cauliflower, broccoli, and raw tomatoes, potatoes have the highest glutathione content compared to other vegetables.
- Sample the new packaged potato products such as the refrigerated, pre-cut variety. They're washed, cut, and partially cooked for a quick, homestyle supper. If you haven't cooked with dehydrated potato flakes lately, give them a try. They're smoother and have more real potato taste than before. Add minced, canned chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce or prepared horseradish for an updated twist.