Textural wizards, potatoes can morph from dense to fluffy, chewy to crisp, depending on their preparation. A number of varieties are available at greenmarkets and supermarkets, and for more unusual types, contact the specialty suppliers listed in Sources. In our recipes, each chef states his or her preference, but if it isn't available, feel free to try another potato that is similar.
White (and gold) potatoes are classified as
STARCHY, with high starch and low water content
WAXY, with low starch and high water content
ALL PURPOSE, with medium starch and water content
NEW, with low starch and high water content (harvested when
young and thin-skinned, these potatoes
can be of any variety).
More starch generally makes potatoes good for baking, frying, and mashing; less means they are best roasted, boiled, or braised. That said, you may enjoy russet potatoes in some braises, as I do. They crumble a bit as they cook and thicken the sauce.
If you aren't sure which category your spuds fall into, put them in a bowl of salted water (2 tablespoons of salt to 11 ounces of water). High-starch potatoes will sink; waxy potatoes will float.
Shop for tubers that have firm, unwrinkled skin, without sprouts, cuts, or blemishes. Avoid those with green spots under the skin, which indicate that the potatoes have been stored in the light. (In a pinch, green spots, sprouts, and blemishes can be cut off, and the rest of the potato can be cooked.) Remove potatoes from their plastic bag and store them in a pantry that is cool, dark, and well ventilated. Although you should never refrigerate mature white or sweet potatoes, because their starch will convert to sugar, you can refrigerate new potatoes, which are lower in starch.
A general rule is three medium potatoes per pound; each pound makes about 2 cups mashed.
The following potatoes are called for in our recipes:
Peruvian Blue or Purple
Skin and flesh range from blue or lavender to dark purple. They have a dense texture, a subtle flavor, and a medium starch content. They originated in South America.
Boniato, or Cuban Sweet Potato
White-fleshed sweet potatoes that are less sweet than regular sweet potatoes, with a more subtle flavor, and a fluffy texture when cooked. Their skin color ranges from red to tan.
Shaped like a finger, 1 to 8 inches long. These are baby long white potatoes, with thin, light skin and a firm, creamy texture. They are all-purpose, with medium starch.
Yellow-fleshed round or oblong potatoes with a buttery taste, smooth deep yellow skin, and medium starch. This variety originated in Europe and was renamed in the United States.
Small, round, red- or brown-skinned potatoes that have been harvested before reaching maturity. They have low starch.
Small, round, red-skinned new potatoes grown in California, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. They have a firm, smooth texture, white flesh, and less moisture than other red varieties, and they are low in starch. The spring and summer crops are sold immediately and have a sweeter, milder flavor than the fall crop, which is stored for later shipment.
"Boiling potatoes." These have reddish-brown skin, waxy flesh, and medium starch.
Ruby Crescent Fingerling
Slightly larger fingerlings with pink-tan skin, yellow flesh, and low starch.
Russet, or Idaho
Rough brown skin with many eyes; white flesh; a light, fluffy texture when cooked; and high starch. This is the most widely used potato variety in the United States.
Although there are many varieties, with orange, red, or white flesh, the darker-skinned orange-fleshed potatoes and the paler-skinned yellow-fleshed potatoes are the most common. The orange-fleshed, commonly called yams, are sweet and moist; the yellow-fleshed are less sweet and drier in texture. Both are long and tapered. (True yams are another tuber entirely, not related to sweet potatoes. They are large, starchy, and bland, with white, pink, or yellow flesh.)
Tan skin; oval shape; buttery, light yellow flesh; and a creamy texture. These are all-purpose potatoes, with medium starch.
Meat and Potatoes From well-known cookbook author Joan Schwartz, creator of the delectable Macaroni and Cheese, comes Meat and Potatoes/ a new collection of outstanding recipes from celebrated chefs across the country. Here are the special recipes of celebrated chefs like Anita Lo, Bobby Flay, Mitchel London, and Patricia Yeo. These chefs work their magic with beef, lamb, veal, and pork in combination of a variety of both white and sweet potatoes. Roasted, braised, or grilled, turned into soups, salads, croquettes or stews, these ingredients are the stuff of endless possibilities. Following a fact-filled Introduction, this book takes us from simple preparations such as Grilled Rosemary-Marinated New York Strip Steak with Potato Gratin, and Country-Style Veal Chops with Potatoes and Mushrooms, to eye-opening (but eminently doable) creations such as Slow-Braised Veal and Vanilla Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie, Braised Short Ribs with Mashed Boniato and Gingered Baby Bok Choy, and Indian Spiced Rack of Lamb with Potato Tikki and Mint Yogurt. With the renaissance of comfort food in full swing, Meat and Potatoes is a must-have cookbook and an ideal gift for cooks of all levels.
Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook is for all those who say, I could never go vegetarian. I'm a meat-and-potatoes person. But eating vegetarian does not have to mean giving up hearty, filling food. With more and more people cutting down on or eliminating meat, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike need a source for meatless meals that are as flavorful as their meaty counterparts. With that in mind, Robin Robertson has developed 275 recipes for mouthwatering, soul-satisfying dishes that feed the hunger without the meat. The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook will change the way people think about vegetarian food, a cuisine not usually associated with indulgence. Everything is comfortingly familiar: Mushroom Barley Soup, German Hot Potato Salad, Chili con Frijoles, Layered Vegetable Lasagna, Broiled Eggplant Teriyaki, Shepherd's Vegetable Pie, and much more. Roasts, burgers, steaks, stews, meat loaves--they're all here, and they're all delicious and all healthy. There are also plenty of fun and funky appetizers; substantial salads and sandwiches; versatile sauces, marinades, and salsas; and rich, homey desserts.