Heading back to school after our 3 week summer break was both fun and educational. I forgot how much information I learned in the classroom that fits perfectly with preparing and cooking great food. I just have to share these little tips with you! After all, if I don’t, who will?! And, I love sharing with you! You should have as much fun in the kitchen as I do.
Potatoes…potatoes are a tuber. Tubers grow in the ground and have a plant that sits above the surface of the soil. Tubers get their nutrients from the plant that is above the ground. Therefore, if you ever see or buy a potato with the plant still attached, you will know the plant is still supplying the food (potato) with nutrients. Carrots are the opposite. Carrots are roots or a root vegetable, which also have a plant that grows above the ground while they grow below. The root (or carrot) provides the nutrients for the plant. Therefore, if you ever purchase carrots with the green plant top still attached, take it home and break off or cut off the green top so you get all the nutrients, not the plant top that gets thrown out.
A little more about potatoes: there are high starch, low moisture potatoes such as a Russet and waxy potatoes that are high moisture, low starch potatoes such as a red potatoes . The important things are storage and cooking methods for these potatoes.
A Russet potato or one that is high starch, low moisture turns mealy or flaky when it’s cooked. This type of potato is best for mashing since it absorbs the moisture/liquid (milk, butter, buttermilk, sour cream, etc) you add to your mashed potatoes. Do your boiling potatoes ever fall apart or do the skins peel off while boiling them? If I were you, I would say yes because that would happen to me and I didn’t understand why. Here’s why…when you boil the water first and put a potato (diced or whole) into the water, the outside cooks much faster than the inside. As you continue to wait for the inside to cook, the outside begins to peel off since it’s finished cooking. You can avoid this by adding your potatoes to a pot of cold, salty water and bringing it all to a boil at the same time.
What about waxy, high moisture taters?! Well, these are best for roasting in the oven (with rosemary, thyme, garlic and olive oil to cover the potatoes…YUM!) or in stews and soups. High moisture, low starch potatoes will stay together in soups and stews. They aren’t ideal for mashed because they turn gluey or sticky due to their high moisture content, nor will they absorb liquid like a Russet.
Storage: potatoes should be stored above 40 degrees F. If they sit below 40 degrees F, the starch will start to breakdown and turn to sugar. I was always confused as to where the potatoes should be stored so sometimes they stayed on the counter and other times I would put them in the refrigerator. And, FYI, your refrigerator should be below 40-41 degrees F for food safety purposes. (We won’t go into that now. It’s mind-numbing, highly necessary knowledge and facts, but you might fall asleep on me if I discuss it!)