Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Technique Tuesday: Tater Tips!

Potatoes are such a versatile and inexpensive vegetable; they can be used in soups, stews or mashed, fried, grilled to name a few ways. There are a few quick tips regarding potato preparation that will help you ensure that your potatoes are fabulous!

Tip #1: Parboiling

A great technique for making fries and grilled potatoes is to parboil them first. This just means that you are partially cooking the potatoes by submerging them in boiling water for a few minutes. There are some people that will tell you to never cut potatoes before you boil them. I cut mine all the time (chop or slice) and have never ended up with a soggy potato. I like the added benefit of quick cooking when you chop your potatoes before boiling them. To parboil, place the potatoes in cold water and bring to a boil. Cook briefly, until you can get a fork into the potatoes but they are only partially cooked. Drain potatoes then go head and use your secondary cooking method.

Tip #2: Boiling
Make sure that anytime you are boiling potatoes, you start with cold water. If you bring your water to a boil then add the potatoes, you will end up with potatoes that are cooked unevenly. Bringing the water to a boil with your potatoes added when the water is cold helps them to cook evenly.

Tip #3: Use your imagination
Potatoes are just about the most versatile vegetable I can imagine. Sweet potatoes, yukon gold, red, Idaho, Korean sweet potatoes...the list goes on and on... Be adventurous and use potatoes in a variety of ways, combining them with different meats and vegetables to create a multitude of dishes. Lately I've been buying 5lb. bags of small Idaho potatoes and using them for mashing, sauteeing, grilling, baking and roasting. They are great to have on hand and simple to prepare.

Tip #4: Making fries
If you are deep frying your potatoes, use the double fry method. Fry them once, then again to get them nice and crispy. If you are baking them, make sure you add a good quality olive oil to ensure that you will have a good crispy outside. Salt your fries when they are still warm; the salt will stick to the oil and create an incredible taste. Also, soak your potatoes before frying; this will remove some of the starch and improve the consistency of your fries.

Tip #5: Mashing your potatoes
DO NOT OVERMASH! This is the most important tip on making delicious mashed potatoes. If you overmash your potatoes, you will end up with a gluey mess.

Tip #6: Types of Potato
There are so many different types of potato from which to choose! Red potatoes are excellent for roasting, while yukon gold make for delicious mashed potatoes. Do some research on what type of potato is best for the dish you are making. I tend to buy small Idahos as a good, all-purpose potato. You can't go wrong with those!

Tip #7: Ricer or Masher? Skin on or off?
I tend to use a potato masher because I like my potatoes to have a little body. If you prefer very creamy mashed potatoes with uniform consistency, you will likely appreciate the ricer. Along this vein, if you like a more rustic mashed potato, go with skin on; if you prefer a creamy, smooth mashed potato, peel them first.

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