What are Potatoes?
Potato is a root vegetable that has been around for a long time. History narrates that this root vegetable was cultivated around 5,000 B.C. in Peru by the Incans. Potato is also a staple food in various cultures in the world.
This vegetable is also called tubers – implying the bulbous stem part of the plant. The scientific name of the potato plant is called Solanum tuberosum, which is an underground plant. The “Spuds” is the name of the tool used to dig potatoes up from the roots of the plants. Potatoes have a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are a significant source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.
Before delving into the mouth-watering ways in which you can cook potatoes, it is essential to know what you are dealing with. There are hundreds of varieties of potatoes that you can encounter while cooking. The most popular types of potatoes include:
1. Russet Potatoes
It is a hybridized form of potato that originated in the 1870s. Russet potatoes gained popularity after the Second World War in America when fast-food culture took a toll. The industry of frozen fries also boosted the cultivation of russet potatoes significantly. Russet potatoes account for about 70 percent of the total potato sales in the United States. Since this variety of potatoes contains large starch granules, it is only suitable for frying and baking.
2. Yukon Gold Potatoes
This variety of potatoes is the most popular. You can use Yukon gold potatoes to make any dish, whether baked, pureed, or fried. Yukon gold potatoes are the hybrid form of Peruvian golden potatoes. They have a fine texture with drier insides.
3. Red Bliss Potatoes
These potatoes are very waxy in texture as they have a high moisture and sugar content. These are mainly used for roasting or frying. Red bliss potatoes cook very quickly but seldom become crisp as they remain gummy after cooking. Hence this variety of potatoes is used mainly in mashed or boiled dishes.
Some General Cooking Tips
- You can cut potatoes during prep so that they are convenient to use and cook. Smaller pieces of potatoes cook up more quickly than the whole.
- You can slice your potatoes beforehand to ease up on some prep time. However, it is best to store raw cut or sliced potatoes underwater so that they do not become discolored. Carbohydrates in this vegetable react with air when left open; thus, discoloration occurs. Storing them underwater can prevent this.
- If your recipe allows, then boil the potatoes beforehand so that they are softened for cooking. An excellent tip for boiling potatoes equally is to start with cold water in the pot and then slowly bring it to a boil so that all pieces are cooked evenly.
- Picking a suitable type of potato is another crucial tip for cooking potatoes. Russet potatoes are fluffy and thus suit recipes such as mashed potatoes. Red bliss and Yukon gold potatoes are best for roasting as they maintain their shape after being cooked.
Different Ways to Cook Potatoes
1. Baked Potatoes
It is one of the easiest ways to cook potatoes and prepare something very filling. You just have to prepare the oven for baking while taking potatoes and pierce them with a fork. Transfer the potatoes onto a baking tray at about 350° Fahrenheit for about one hour. It can take less or more time, depending on how well it is done. You can check by inserting a fork in the potatoes and see if it is going right into it.
Once baked, cut the potatoes in half and sprinkle some salt or any other seasoning that you like. Butter goes perfectly with hot, freshly baked potatoes. You can add your favorite cheese on the top too.
2. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are the best comfort food for all ages. Whether your kid is teething or just starting solids or you are a grown adult craving for something creamy that fills you up quickly, mashed potatoes are the best go-to dish. For this, you have cut the potatoes and put them all in cold water in a pot. Turn on the flame to let the water come to a boil until all the pieces are soft. Add butter and salt after draining all the water and whip the potatoes with a hand blender. Add cream or milk while beating until the potatoes are of desired consistency.
3. Potato Salad
It is another fastest way to cook potatoes while never compromising on your taste. Opportunities to make a potato salad are endless as you can add your favorite ingredients to a bowl of boiled potatoes cut into smaller pieces. You can add salt, pepper, eggs, mayonnaise, herbs, etc.
4. French Fries
If this is not the king of all fast-foods, then we cannot say what is! French fries are the most popular fast foods that are eaten as a primary or side dish equally. You can cut up some russet potatoes and soak them in a bowl of cold water. Deep fry them twice while keeping an eye on the temperature of the oil. First, fry them at 300 and then 400° Fahrenheit.
5. Roasted Potatoes
Roasted potatoes are hearty and filling. They make up a yummy savory side dish that goes well with any main dish, such as meat. For this, you have to cut potatoes into small pieces and drizzle some olive oil, any herb you like, and salt. Spread the potatoes on a baking tray lined with sheets and roast at about 475° Fahrenheit for one hour.
6. Tater Tots
These are crispy potato bites that taste like French fries. Take some russet potatoes and boil them for a few minutes. Grate the potatoes and squeeze out all the water from them. Mix salt, pepper, flour, and herbs or spices into the grated potatoes and shape them into small balls. Fry them until they turn crispy and golden brown.
7. Au Gratin
Au gratin is a popular cheesy French potato dish that involves pouring a hot cheese sauce over thinly sliced potatoes lined up in a baking dish. You have to combine salt, black pepper, parmesan cheese, and cream in a pot on the stove for the cheese sauce. Once all the cheese melts, and the mixture becomes one, pour it over the potatoes and bake it at 425° Fahrenheit for one hour.
8. Potato Wedges
Crispy baked potato wedges make an excellent appetizer. For this, bake potatoes and cut them into two halves. Scoop up all the flesh of the potatoes and coat the skin with olive oil. Bake the wedges until they turn crisp and golden. Top them with sour cream, your favorite cheese, and herbs such as chives, and you are good to go.
With Potatoes, You Can Never Fail
It is not always true, but mostly, nothing goes wrong while cooking potatoes unless you have zero basic cooking knowledge. Everyone loves potatoes. You can either bake, roast, or fry them – it depends on you. Any dish made with potatoes is a crowd-pleaser. Just follow the cooking tips, and you can try out different varieties by adding up some other spices or herbs.