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Potatoes

Shepherd's Pie In the early months of the year, you may see large bags of potatoes in the supermarket at a reduced price.  These will be last year’s crop, and if you have time to prepare them and room in your freezer, they can be an inexpensive and convenient source of slow-burning carbs—a source of energy that will last long after the meal. They won’t have as much Vitamin C as new potatoes, but they still offer great nutrition and can be used in many popular recipes.
Most often Russet potatoes, used for baking, fall into this category.  They are referred to as “mealy”, or “floury” potatoes that mash well. 
If you have a potato ricer, you can steam large batches of these large potatoes in your microwave and rice them while still hot.  Then, they can be used in recipes such as Shepherd’s Pie, Perogies, Gnocci, Twice-baked Potatoes, or Potato Boats, or even in a Chowder in place of heavy cream or added to bread dough to enhance nutrition and texture!  If you don’t need them all immediately, store some in a clean container or freezer bag to be used later.
Russet Baking Potato
Potato Ricer Quite often mealy potatoes are peeled before cooking and boiled in water.  The water may be used in bread dough to add starch that will feed the yeast.  Cooking this way should make the potatoes soft enough to be mashed with a stand mixer or hand mixer.  With this technique, be careful not to remove too much with the peel because the vitamins are concentrated just beneath the skin.  Steaming with the peel on makes this easier. 
However, if there is any sign of green under the skin this part should be removed; it contains toxins that protect the potato in the ground from foraging insects.  If potatoes are exposed to light they develop this green tinge.
Yukon Gold Potato Potatoes should be stored in a dark cupboard with plenty of air circulation to avoid mould and moisture.  Storing in plastic, paper, or cardboard should only be done for a brief period of time because these materials tend to retain moisture, allowing mould to grow on the potatoes.  A net sack or stock pot should make a better storage vessel.  In spring the potatoes will begin to sprout, and the sprouts should be removed before cooking.  If you notice signs of sprouting, it’s a good time to cook and freeze your spuds for later use.
New potatoes have a higher moisture content that makes them sticky, referred to as “waxy” or “starchy” potatoes.  You can find these in yellow, pink, white, or even purple varieties, and they also come in many shapes and sizes.  The Yukon Gold is a yellow-fleshed potato pictured above. The most popular in North America, pictured on the right, is probably the Pontiac potato; it is referred to as “red” but appears as a vibrant shade of pink when new and a more faded blush color when older. 
Pontiac Potato
Piped Potatoes New waxy potatoes have a thin skin that can be scraped off; they are perfect for Potato Salad, scalloped potatoes, or in a soup or stew where the potato is cubed or sliced and should hold its shape.  Trying to mash this type of potato can result in a sticky glue texture inferior to the mealy potatoes mentioned earlier, which produce light, fluffy mashed potatoes that absorb butter, cream, and other flavorings well.  If you like to pipe potatoes onto Shepherd’s Pie, you can add sour cream and/or raw eggs to riced or mashed potatoes before baking to obtain a free-flowing consistency, similar to icing.
As you probably know, potatoes originated in Peru and were brought to the Old World by European explorers in the 16th Century.  The potato was worshipped by the Incas, who relied on dried potato for winter survival.  Like chilis, potatoes spread throughout the world and became popular in every cuisine.  New strains were developed that could thrive in various climates and resist blight; however, the number of varieties in the place of origin was enormous even in the 16th Century because the potato had already been cultivated there for 10,000 years.
Chowder with Potatoes Dried potatoes in the form of flakes and flour can still be found today, and the quality is superior to its first commercial appearance as potato flakes.  Of course, the most popular potato product is the French fry, considered to be fattening because it is deep fried in oil; however, fries are an important source of Vitamin C for many North Americans. 
A healthier option is to roast potatoes in your oven at home with olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
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