Hot Potato: Cookbook Stuffed with Recipes

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Hot Potato: Cookbook Stuffed with Recipes


Byline: Don Mauer

Did you ever think there could be 100 potato recipes good enough to star in a potato cookbook? I sure didn't. How about 200 recipes? Or even 300?

Cool down your incredulity because Roy Finamore accomplished the seemingly impossible in "One Potato, Two Potato" (2001 Houghton Mifflin, $35).

Finamore and co-writer Molly Stevens truly appreciate unglamorous, yet utilitarian spuds. Stevens, a contributing editor to Fine Cooking magazine, grows them in her Vermont garden. Finamore, a New Yorker and Clarkson Potter cookbook editor, revels in the Big Apple's Greenmarket and its freshly dug Yukon Golds, thin-skinned Reddales, heirloom Augustas or Estimas.

As he writes: "To us, it's not a meal without potatoes, whether great heirlooms or plain old supermarket russets."

Over the last 10 years, potatoes have been held in high esteem as tasty, almost fat free meal-makers and vilified as starchy, carbohydrate-heavy, high protein diet breakers.

That, however, is just a blip on potato's historical radar. As Finamore explains, potatoes have seen the best and worst of times. Peruvians cultivated them as a diet staple more than 500 years ago, the French once considered them tasteless and starchy and Sicilians believed them poisonous. Today, only rice surpasses potatoes as a food crop.

Before his cornucopia of recipes begins, Finamore spells out basic "potato principles." For example, before you mash, bake, boil, fry or chill a potato, you need to understand its starch level.

Baked russet or Idaho potatoes with their crisp exterior, fluffy interior and ability to absorb liquids belong to the high-starch group. Red or white potatoes with their high moisture and low- starch content, hold their shape, maintain an "al dente" texture and work well in hash browns or potato salad.

All-purpose and Yukon Gold medium-starch potatoes don't shine when baked or fried, but work exceedingly well prepared in other ways.

The book contains recipes using sweet potatoes, which he admits are not, botanically-speaking, related to the potato. Nevertheless, since they share similar preparation methods they worked their way into his book.

According to Finamore, potatoes can be prepared for any part of any meal from appetizers to dessert. I can't wait to try his Potatoes Roasted in Salt, more for the method than for the actual ingredients. And his Oven-Fried Potatoes just may be the low-fat chip alternative we healthy eaters have been looking for.

Next come soups and, as expected, includes several versions of Vichyssoise (cold, cream of potato soup) along with Cream of Red Pepper and Potato, Wild Mushroom and Potato and easy-to-make (Oven) Roasted Corn Chowder. A wide selection of salads follows such as the classic Salad Nicoise, a clever Smashed Potato Salad and Warm Potato Salad with Olives and Lemon.

Finamore's includes more than 35 main course uses for potatoes. No same-old here. He opens the chapter with Young Chicken Stuffed with Potatoes and Shitake, moves into Colombian Potato and Chicken Stew and Shepherd's Pie and wraps it up with Eggplant Gnocchi and Leek and Potato Tart. …

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