Fall and winter are prime times to think about potatoes, a hearty food that can be prepared in so many ways. Did you know that there are more than 200 potato varieties available in the United States? Here’s a primer on potato basics from Maison Culinaire.
Potatoes fall into seven variety categories: russet, white, yellow, red, purple/blue, fingerling and petite. Let’s look at the various varieties and what makes each special.
The large russet potatoes are favorites for baking, frying, and mashed potatoes. When cooked, they produce a crisp outside with a fluffy inside. The skin is quite favorable when cooked.
Since russets’ flesh have a mild flavor, they can be topped with a number of items when baked. Try them with sour cream, bacon bits and chives. Or enjoy them with butter. They’ll hold up to spicy and heavy seasonings as well. To make fries, cut them into wedges.
Identify: Medium- to large-sized, oblong shape. Light brown to medium-colored skin and white or pale yellow flesh.
White potatoes are good for cooking because they remain firm and hold their shape. With thin skins, they can be used for mashed potatoes without peeling beforehand. They are also good for frying.
These potatoes are often used for potato salad. Try them with ranch dressing, egg and bacon, or Caesar dressing.
Identify: Small- to medium-sized, round or long shape, white/tan skin and white flesh. Medium starch with a delicate skin.
With their rich, buttery flavor and creamy texture when cooked, yellow potatoes like Yukon Gold are becoming more popular with chefs for baking, roasting and mashing. Minimum butter is needed to flavor them.
Grill them to get a crispy skin and a caramelized, slightly sweet flavor, or boil and mash them slightly and top them with sour cream and chives.
Identify: Very small- to large-sized, round or oblong shape. Tan/golden skin and yellow flesh.
Red potatoes have a waxy texture that helps the potato stay firm during cooking, and the red skin adds color to any plate. They are slightly sweet because of their medium sugar content.
Use red potatoes in soups or potato salad, or roast or mash them and serve with butter and parsley.
Identify: Small- to medium-sized, round or slightly oblong. Thin, smooth red skin and white flesh.
Purple or Blue Potatoes
The purple-blue potato has a mild yet nutty flavor due to their low sugar content that makes them a good pairing with green salads. To preserve their vibrant color, microwaving is preferred, but they can also be steamed or baked. Combine them with red and white potatoes for a colorful presentation.
Identify: Small- to medium-sized, shaped from oblong to fingerling. Deep purple skin with various colors of ranging from blue to pink, red or white.
With a firm, waxy texture, and unique colors and shapes, fingerling potatoes add a visual element to any dish or plating. They are buttery in taste, with a light nutty or earthy flavor.
Pan-fry or roast fingerling potatoes to bring out their flavor, and serve them with butter or as a dipping potato with various dips like Sriracha or romesco.
Identify: Two- to four-inches long, with a finger or oblong shape. Skin colors and flesh colors vary and include white, purple and orange varieties.
Since petite potatoes are just that—small—their flavor is more concentrated. This makes them ideal for potato salads or tossed together with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary for a colorful side dish. They can be served whole.
Identify: Small and bite-sized, also known as “pearls” or marble-sized. Skins and flesh comes in all the color varieties as their larger cousins.
Sweet potatoes can be considered a potato, but unlike other potatoes, it is not a member of the nightshade family. There are two major types of sweet potatoes: firm and soft. The firm ones remain firm when cooked and have a waxy texture, while the soft ones cook up creamy and fluffy. You’re most likely to find the soft version on a Thanksgiving table.
Roast sweet potatoes whole and serve them split open with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon toppings.
Identify: Large, with tapered ends. Skin ranging in color from yellow to orange, to red or brown. The flesh can also range in color, but is most often identified as orange. The orange-flesh variety is often referred to as a yam in North America.
Fun Fact: More than 50% of the U.S.’s sweet potatoes are grown in North Carolina.
DC Metropolitan Area Catering from Maison Culinaire
At Maison Culinaire, we’re experts at identifying food flavors from around the world. That’s why people come to use for international cuisine options. Even potatoes and how they are prepared can vary from country to country and culture to culture.
For the freshest foods prepared impeccably, contact Maison Culinaire. Serving weddings, corporate and special events throughout the Washington DC Metropolitan area. Contact us to discuss catering for your event.