For most of us, selecting the right potato for a particular preparation means selecting from among russets, all-purpose potatoes, and red- or white-skinned boiling potatoes, as these are often the only types found in the kitchen. For basic potato cookery, then, the information in the preceding section tells us what we need to know. Today's chefs, however, can use more information in order to take advantage of the many varieties of potatoes available today, as growers discover new varieties and rediscover heirloom potato varieties.The following are some of the many potatoes available.
First, the term new potato needs explanation. Not all small potatoes are new potatoes, and not all new potatoes are small. Normally, potatoes are not harvested until the green, bushy tops turn brown and die back. At this point, the potatoes are mature.Their skin has thickened, and their starch content has developed. Any variety of potato that is harvested before it is mature, while leaves and stems are still green, are new potatoes. Because they have not matured, they have a lower starch content and tender, thin skin. Although most new potatoes are small, usually less than 1^2 inches (4 cm) in diameter, this is not always the case.
New potatoes are shipped and sold as soon as they are harvested. By contrast, potatoes that are harvested mature are held at a controlled temperature and humidity for about two weeks in order to toughen their skins further and heal cuts and other dam-age.This curing process gives the potatoes greater keeping quality.
Russets, often called Idaho potatoes because so many russets are grown in that state, are high-starch potatoes with a regular, elongated shape, brown or reddish-brown, rough skin, and white flesh.These are the standard choice for baking and deep-frying.
All-purpose potatoes are also white-fleshed potatoes.They have a moderate starch content and moderate moisture,making them suitable for many kinds of preparations, indicated in the previous section.White-fleshed potatoes may also be harvested young, when they have more moisture, less starch, and a thin skin.Young white potatoes are used mostly for boiling.
Yellow-fleshed potatoes include many varieties. Yukon Gold is a round, medium-size potato that ranges from waxy to somewhat starchy, depending on age and growing conditions.They are used for many purposes,including baking. Yellow Finn is also used for baking, and it has a smooth, creamy texture when baked, unlike the grainy, starchy texture of baked russets. Other yellow potatoes include Bintje (waxy), Butte (fairly starchy), Concord (waxy), Charlotte (waxy), and Island Sunshine (medium starch).
Blue potatoes (All-Blue)
Red-skinned varieties may have white, pink, or yellow flesh. Most of them are of the waxy type. Red Bliss has long been one of the most popular waxy potatoes. Other red-skinned potatoes include All-Red (pink flesh), Early Ohio (white flesh), Early Rose (white flesh),and Rose Gold (yellow flesh).
Blue-skinned, white-fleshed varieties are similar to red-skinned varieties, except that their skins range in color from dark reddish blue to purple.When cooked, the skins may keep their color or turn brown, grayish, or another color, depending on the variety. Several varieties are grown,including Blue Pride, Caribe, and Kerry Blue.
Blue- or purple-fleshed varieties are the novelty item among potatoes.They may be waxy or somewhat starchy, depending on the variety. The two most common purple-fleshed potatoes are Peruvian Blue, also called Purple Peruvian, with dark violet flesh that lightens somewhat when cooked, and All-Blue, with purple or reddish purple flesh that becomes lavender when cooked.
Fingerling potatoes are small potatoes,usually firm and waxy,with a long,narrow shape.Most popular fingerlings are yellow-skinned and yellow-fleshed, but red-skinned, yellow-fleshed fingerlings, red-skinned, pink-fleshed fingerlings, and purple fingerlings are also grown. Among the available varieties are Austrian Crescent (yellow), French Fingerling (red skin,yellow flesh), Russian Banana (yellow),La Ratte (yellow), Ruby Crescent (pinkish yellow skin, yellow flesh), and Red Thumb (red skin, pink flesh).
Each of these many potato varieties has a slightly different flavor, texture, and cooking characteristics. Experiment with any variety you find available and adapt it to the most appropriate preparations.
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