Some call potatoes “taters,” some call them “spuds,” but a potato by any other name is still a potato. Potatoes are a hardy vegetable and incredibly good for you. While growing up in my home, potatoes were the staff of life. We ate them will almost every meal. Potatoes are not as high in calories as you might think; a medium baker is between 130 to 160 calories. What makes the potato high in calories is all the toppings we load on top of them, such as cheese, sour cream, butter and bacon.
Potatoes give our bodies Vitamin C, B6 and minerals such as manganese and copper. They are high in fiber, plus they have potassium, helping our bodies to maintain proper nerve and muscle activity.
In the past, I have had discussions with a friend on how to tell if a potato is going bad. If they are wrinkly and soft they have definitely gone bad. My friend tells me if they are sprouting not to eat them, but if I find a small amount of sprouts and the potato is firm, I cut the sprout off and use them anyway. Some people will tell you not to eat them if they have a green color in the skin. The green is actually chlorophyll which is normally good for you, but in a potato it means that a toxin called solanie is starting to form and this toxin is not good for you. However most people cut the green off and use it anyway. If there is an abundance of green, I would throw it out!
Potatoes should be stored in a dark, dry place. This will keep them fresh longer. Check them out at the grocery store before you buy them. If the potatoes are in a bag that you can’t see through ask the produce people when they received them at the store and if they are good. Don’t buy potatoes that have been pre washed. The protective coating is gone making them more susceptible to spoilage. Besides don’t we all love scrubbing the taters.
The Perfect Baked Potato
Let’s talk potato. Most people would agree that a russet is the best variety for baking. You probably have been given a lot of advice on how to make the perfect baked potato. My idea of perfection is light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. This won’t happen if you are wrapping your potatoes in aluminum foil, unless you are rubbing them with a little oil and some salt. My mom never used foil; she washed the russet, dried it, rubbed it with oil, pierced it and cooked it on the rack in the oven or on a cookie sheet at 425 degrees for about 1 hour. Sometimes it will take longer depending on the size of the potato. If you want the potato evenly browned you might want to flip it over after the first 30 minutes. If you don’t the bottom gets a little browner than the top. If you are in a hurry, pierce the clean potato, microwave for 3 to 5 minutes, brush with some oil and bake at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until the potato when squeezed feels soft.
Any kind of oil works, I prefer olive oil. I have had people tell me they use butter or canned shortening. I’ve even heard of the use of bacon grease. For salt, I prefer course or kosher salt. Some people like to use salt on the outside of the potato, after they have oiled it. I feel like it is just extra work and I don’t notice that much benefit.
If you are watching your weight; try canola shortening and a little bit of balsamic vinegar on the potato before you eat it. If that doesn’t sound good, there is, of course, light sour cream.
The Perfect Mashed Potato
I usually get asked at Thanksgiving to make the mashed potatoes. The art of making a perfect mashed potato is to:
1. Use the right potato, a russet or a Yukon (fresh and firm).
2. Cut them into a uniform size, about 2 inch cubes. This helps them cook evenly.
3. The third thing is to not hold back on the butter and cream.
Some of you are saying how unhealthy it is to use large amounts of butter and cream, but I’m telling you there is a reason I get asked to make the mash potatoes!
1 1/4 pounds of potatoes
2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoon butter
3/4 cup cream, half and half or evaporated milk
Scrub potatoes, cut into about 2 inch squares. In a large pot, add potatoes, water to just cover potatoes and 1 Teaspoon salt. Cover pot and cook on medium low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork. When potatoes are done, run them through a colander. Return to the pot; keep on heat for 1 to 2 minutes so potatoes will dry and not be gooey. In the same large pot or large mixing bowl, beat potatoes with an electric mixer while adding butter and salt. Add cream a little at a time. Mix until smooth and fluffy. If you over mix, they won’t be as fluffy.
The Perfect Roasted Potatoes
Our family loves oven-roasted potatoes with herbs on them. It’s a wonderful side dish with burgers or any kind of meat.
Scrub potatoes well. I don’t peel these. Boil potatoes whole for 3 to 5 minutes. This speeds up the process and helps with the finished texture. Remove and run cold water over them to cool them so you can handle them. Cut in strips and place on cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and herbs. Cook at 375 degrees for 12 to 18 minutes until crispy. This process helps the potatoes to be mealy on the inside and crisp on the outside. We love Italian seasoning or lemon pepper. Some people like Rosemary or seasoning salt. Use whatever you like. If adding cheese, do this just a couple of minutes before removing from oven.
Enjoy eating those potatoes, taters or spuds, they are good for you! The fun will be in the creativity you use in your selection of topping.