Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

A Passion for Potatoes

Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

A Passion for Potatoes

Article excerpt

A PASSION FOR POTATOES

Pasta brunches and power lunches, quiche Lorraine and salad romaine, oat-bran breads and salmon spreads--what's chic one season quickly sours the next. Americans crave change. And nowhere is this appetite for diversity more apparent than in our food fashions.

"Familiarity breeds contempt. . . ." Not always. There's something comforting about a recognizable and reliable food at mealtime.

Like a potato, perhaps.

Although the lowly potato has been content to occupy reserved seating in the corner of most American dinner plates, it is rapidly regaining favor with the trendy and the fit, with very good reason.

Nutritionally, potatoes are the darlings of today's high-fiber, low-fat weight-loss plans. The ordinary potato contains only 116 calories, says the United States Department of Agriculture. It has no cholesterol, little fat and sodium, and plenty of vitamins B, C, and K--as well as significant amounts of potassium, iron, and niacin. For the athlete, it is a prime source of complex carbohydrates, the body's best source of fuel.

No wonder the potato is the most widely used vegetable in the world: the USDA says per capita consumption in American households was more than 124 pounds in 1989. One in every three meals Americans eat out includes potatoes--nudging the trendy tuber from side dish to main dish in restaurants across the country.

Among the hundreds of varieties of potatoes, two basic categories stand out: the waxy and the floury. Low in starch and firm after cooking, waxy potatoes are best steamed or boiled for use in your favorite potato salad or saute recipes.

Floury potatoes, on the other hand, are starchier, with a fluffy texture when cooked. The superstar of the American floury potatoes is the Russet Burbank, grown in Idaho's volcanic soil. Use floury potatoes for baking, mashing, oven frying, and gratins.

Let's not forget the new potato. New potatoes come in two varieties: red skinned and brown skinned. A few tiny new potatoes, simply cooked in their skins and topped with pats of margarine or a butter substitute and seasoned with fresh minced parsley, make a simple and perfect delicacy.

Buy unblemished potatoes. Skip spuds that are cracked, flabby, bruised, or mottled with green. A greenish potato will usually taste bitter; it can make you ill if you eat it. Cut out the green portions with a paring knife, or toss the potato and select another.

Store potatoes in a coolish (45-50[degrees] F.), dark, dry place. Never refrigerate potatoes--colder temperatures make potatoes sweet. Warmer temperatures will make them sprout and wither.

Spuds are also infinitely versatile, and the curious chef will discover endless taste possibilities. Remember that potatoes never need be a no-no for the calorie or cholesterol conscious. Just apply heart-wise good sense to spud cookery. Use low-fat yogurt, mustard, and low-fat cheese instead of high-fat ingredients. Butter substitutes and seasonings offer a new array of tasteful alternatives to the high-fat toppings that mask the flavor of the simply delicious potato.

Perfect Garlic Mashed Potatoes

(Makes 4 servings)

1-1/3 pounds (4 medium) potatoes 1 cup low-fat milk 2 tablespoons margarine 3 cloves garlic, minced Salt and pepper, to taste Chopped parsley, for garnish

In microwave oven, cook potatoes at High 13 minutes. Halve potatoes lengthwise; scoop out pulp into medium microwave-safe bowl. Mash potatoes with potato masher, or beat with electric hand mixer; set aside. Place milk, margarine, and garlic in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at High 2 minutes. Thoroughly mix into potato pulp. If necessary, add milk to reach creamier consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Cook in microwave at High 1 minute. Serve immediately; sprinkle with parsley.

Hot Potato Stir-fry

(Makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon each cornstarch and dry sherry 1 pound skinned and boned chicken breasts, cut into strips 1/3" thick 2 tablespoons oil 1 large onion, thinly sliced 2 cloves garlic, minced 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger 2 medium potatoes (2/3 pound), peeled, cut into 1/2" cubes, parboiled until just tender, and drained 1/4 cup chicken broth or water 2 firm tomatoes, cut into eighths

In bowl combine soy sauce, cornstarch, and sherry. …

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