March 28, 2012

Potato, Patahdo: Meh... Does It Matter?

I did a potato and eggs cookery class last night and heard something that if I'd known before, I hadn't been paying attention, because it was ALL NEW to me. Are you ready for this? Because it's big. And makes a difference in how you cook them...if you're interested in great results that is. Here goes: potatoes can be classified into two categories: Mealy and Waxy. Wow. Such simple information. Now what do I do with it? And why does it take paying a chunk of change to go to a class to find out something that I could theoretically find out for free on a 30 second YouTube video?

Examples of Mealy: Russet, Idaho Russet and others with thicker skins which look dull to me.
Examples of Waxy: Yukon Gold, white, red, fingerling and others with thinner skins that look a little shinier and cleaner to me.

Mealy potatoes have high starch content and fall apart when cooked. They are good for baking, mashing and deep frying. So baked potato bars, mashed potatoes and french fries. And that's pretty much it.

Waxy potatoes are also known as the chef's potatoes. You can do all sorts of things with them because they hold their shape after being cooked. In our class we used the Yukon Golds to make several dishes.

I've made Pomme Rosti (hashbrowns) several times in previous years. It's simple, right? Sure, grate the potato and pop it in a frying pan. Cook for a bit and flip it over. Easy-peasy. Or so I thought. I haven't been able to get mine to consistently turn out. Ever.

My problem? The potato. I usually buy and use regular brown potatoes at the store...in other words, the mealy ones. I thought they were all the same (besides slightly different colors and flavors). They aren't. They turned into a gooey mess for a reason. This morning, I made the boys Pommes Rosti and they turned out. I used the red potatoes we had in our cupboard. Yay!


I learned to make Pommes Anna last night, too. It was good...even if extra-crispy because my partner and I forgot them in the oven while we were working on latke. We got that on the stove and then remembered our Pommes Anna. Then we burned our latke. What a mess. We also learned how to do scalloped and duchess potatoes and also how to get mashed potatoes that tasted like the ones at the Salish Lodge. Next experiment? Croquette (tater tots). We didn't have time to do them last night. But I've got a good idea where to start. Maybe we'll make some for dinner tonight...but I think I need to go buy some more potatoes. Waxy, of course.

FYI: the secret to the mashed potatoes is all about the butter. Instead of a little butter with your potato, it's a little potato with your butter. Seriously. So fatty. So good.

Other mashed potato tips:
1. Peel potatoes after they've been cooked. You can put them in a hot oven (400*F) for a few minutes after peeling, too. This dries out the excess moisture from boiling and gets them ready to soak in the butter.
2. Instead of mashing, use a food mill/ricer. They'll be light and fluffy and not gooey from intense mechanical pressure.
3. Heat the milk before adding it in. You can also infuse it with garlic in this step. Cold milk will give you the same results you've always gotten. Not the fantastic texture or flavors that I have never been able to duplicate at home. Until now. Cooking classes are truly amazing. Seeing, hearing, smelling, doing, tasting. All in the moment. It truly helps ensure success cooking at home.

Potato, Patahdo: Meh... Does It Matter? I'm so glad you asked. Why yes, yes it does.

5 Riveting COMMENTS:

  1. Good info, thanks for sharing. I will have to keep these things in mind! :)

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  2. I knew that. So, I'm a potato nerd, I guess.

    Here, you can actually buy pre-packed bags of potatos that are suitable for various purposes - baking, mashing etc. It's all in the label...

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  3. Holy crap. I read this entire post like it was a novel. Super duper informative for me. Gracias for the info. Seriously. My kids have never like mashed potatoes at home...but we go out to eat at a fancy shmancy place and they love em!!! Now I know. And knowing is half the battle G.I. Joe.

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  4. This is very helpful information. Why didn't I know that before??

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  5. For an Idaho girl who grew up on (mealy) potatoes this was so interesting to me. I love that you're taking a cooking class on potatoes. So much fun!

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