Monday, June 11, 2007

Home Fries and Potatoes 101

Home fries. On the Burton menu every week. Family loves them, easy to prepare, taste amazing, and they're good for you. Yes, potatoes are good for you. How did our poor spuds get such a bad rap. Well, we know how. Atkins, anyone? But we know potatoes are good for us, and are just plain good to eat!
After this post, Teresa asked about varieties of potatoes, and what type to use for different recipes. I'll cover some basics, and then move on to tell you how to make those delicious home fries.

Potatoes are classified as starchy, all-purpose (medium starch), and low starch, or waxy. This is not how they are labeled in stores, though. We see "Russet", "Red Potatoes", "White Potatoes", and some other varieties like new potatoes and blue (purple) potatoes. So, which is which and how do we use them? (note: if you have TEV, you can also see p.32)

The very common Russet potato is a starchy potato. These spuds bake up with a dry, mealy, fluffy texture that doesn't hold it's shape. They are often used for baked potatoes and mashed potatoes, but can also be used for fries.

The common 'white' potato is a medium-starch/all-purpose potato. Yukon Gold (lower right) also falls in this category. Yukon Gold has a yellow color flesh and its flavor is a little richer than the white variety. But, both White and Yukon Gold potatoes hold their shape better with their waxier textures. Very good for home fries, and also for boiling, and baking... as mentioned, the all-purpose tater.

Red potatoes, new potatoes (both on left), and other varieties like blue and fingerling are the low-starch, 'waxy' potatoes. These potatoes aren't great for mashing, but are stars for salad recipes, for boiling, and for pan roasting. Most of these spuds also have a natural creamy flavor.

When shopping for potatoes, be sure to look for firm potatoes, without cracks or splits, and with no green underhues. If some of your potatoes have a green hue under the skin, you can peel until the green is removed, but then you are taking away the skin that has so many nutrients.

There's your tater cheat sheet! But, don't fret about always having the right potato in your pantry. For very special recipes, like a potato salad you are making for a potluck, then sure, go shop for the potatoes called for in the recipe. But for day-to-day cooking, have some all-purpose potatoes on hand, and a few Russets, and you'll be fine.

Now, on to home fries! Shop for the all-purpose potato (though, I often make home fries with Russet or Red, and we are perfectly happy with those). Try to get a few larger, longer spuds so you can cut longer fries. If your potatoes are smaller, that's fine. You can still cut in short strips, or in rounds, or wedges, chunks, or half-moon's.

After washing/scrubbing your potatoes, simply cut into strips. Thicker strips will take longer to cook, but will also stay more tender, whereas thinner fries will get crispier. To make cutting easier, first remove a slice off one side of the potato, then use that flat side to stand the potato on your cutting board so it doesn't slip around (get the idea?). Now you can cut the potato in slices, and then those slices into strips.

Throw - well, don't actually throw, that could get messy :) - your fries on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toss with olive oil and/or coconut oil, and sprinkle with salt. You can also season with other herbs/spices if you like, but most times simplest is best (though a teaspoon or so of chopped fresh rosemary is a match made in tater heaven).

Bake the fries at about 400 for about an hour - less/more depending on thickness of fries. Be sure to toss the fries a couple of times through baking to help get the sides of the fries nice and golden. When done, sprinkle with a little extra sea salt. And eat up! Nummy.


Roxy said...

thanks you have me craving home fries! thanks for mentioning that potatoes are healthy!

hyphen_helena said...

I was under the impression that sweet potatoes/yams are healthier than white/yellow potatoes. Is this true? I thought sweet potatoes are to wheat bread as white potatoes are to white bread. Maybe I'm completely misinformed.

Judy said...

Yes, it is too bad that potatoes have such a bad rap when they really are a very healthy food. And so many ways to enjoy them, though I have to admit it's been a very long time since I've made simple ol' fries.

maybepigscanfly said...

Dreena- you're awesome for doing a whole post on potatoes. Seriously this answers my questions about potatoes. I think I grew up with only white potatoes and never realized that there are actually several types of potatoes. Now I know what I'm doing when it comes to potato buying and cooking- thanks to you. Oh and I must make these home fries soon- the picture is making my want to bite my computer screen!

Oh and thanks for reminding us that potatoes ARE healthy AND tasty. I hate how people think potatoes are only for potato chips (and then claim that this is their daily vegetable).


julie hasson said...

Hi Dreena!

What excellent info on potatoes. I've actually only made fries with Russet potatoes, but will have to try your other suggestions.

Happy cooking!

Trina said...

Parchment paper. Good idea!

Michelle said...

i love roasted potatoes with quartered onions, thyme, oregano and coarse sea salt........ droool!

Dreena said...

Cool Roxy! Thanks... we just had more home fries last night, guess the pics got to me as well!

Hi helena, well, sweet potatoes/yams ARE nutritional powerhouses, being very high in vit A and also offering other vitamins and minerals, white potatoes can also be healthy. I say 'can', because most people eat them as greasy take-out fries!! But, potatoes offer vitamins and minerals too, and also fiber (when skin is also eaten). White potatoes may not be *as* nutritious as sweet potatoes, but still, they offer their own nutrients and are a whole food - unlike white bread. White bread is made from white flour, and that flour has been stripped of nutrients. And if you ever read a label saying "enriched flour", that just means white flour that has vitamins added back to it. Still not good. But potatoes are how nature intended - unless fried up courtesy of McD's, or processed into 'mashed potato' boxes!! Does this clarify at all?

I fully agree, Judy, and simple fries are one of our simple pleasures!

Teresa, you're totally welcome, and I'm glad the post offered some helpful tips for you. Yes, so sad when potato chips = veg intake. Huh??! :)

Hi Julie, yeah, we love home fries with yukon gold or red potatoes. They just have a natural sweetness that is irresistible! Too much so, sometimes!!

Trina, it makes clean up a BREEZE!

Michelle, I hope someone else can cook those up for you - you need some preggo food assistance now... a lil' food pampering. :)

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

Awesome potato tutorial! I'll have to try tossing home fries with coconut oil - that sounds yummy.

hyphen_helena said...

Thanks, Dreena! That cleared it up. I will no longer shy away from white potatoes.

Harmonia said...

Thanks for the education! ;)

Dreena said...

Hi Vicki, hey, thanks for that terrific review of the dvd. You are a sweetheart to cover all those recipes and photos in your post. I'm glad the dvd has given you some recipes you like, and hopefully will give you a few 'regulars' for your weekly meals. Again, thank you, that review was awesome!! :)

Great, helena, always happy to save a spud's reputation!

Most welcome, Harmonia.

Douglas said...

Potatoes do raise the glycemic index though and make you feel full only for a short time. They trick your body into feeling full and covert directly into sugar once into your bloodstream.

They are a good snack once in a while but they are not an optimal food to eat, sorry to argue but its a fact.

They are a heavy starch and also cause different molds to grwo once igested in your body. I love them but you get the same minerals and vitamins from many many other things.

Dreena said...

Hi Douglas. While potatoes are not a 'low gi food' they are still a whole food, and can be eaten with low gi foods like tofu or beans to balance blood sugar levels. Plus, it is instant and more refined potatoes that are of more concern than something like a red or new potato. While other foods may offer some of the same minerals and vitamins as potatoes, that doesn't mean that we cannot enjoy potatoes. I haven't argued that they are as healthy as say, kale, acai berries, or sweet potatoes. But, they are by no means junk food, and can be enjoyed as part of a varied vegan diet. Thanks for your input, I just want vegetarians and vegans-to-be to know that they can eat their spuds. :)