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Tuesday, April 25, 2006 

The power of potatoes

"Potatoes can be mashed, smashed, hashed, baked, double baked, boiled, roasted, scalloped, fried, and french fried.

But wait, there's more! They can be an ingredient in salads, snacks, soups, pancakes, gnocchi, pierogi, pie and even vodka."

This is how Sandy Thorn Clark opens her article on Potatoes in the Chicago Sun-Times of last week.

In the article are a number of recipes for potatoes, as well a lot of tips and tricks for handling, storing and cooking spuds.

One recipe is for Morton's Lyonnaise Potatoes, which are described thusly:

With the baked potato slices coated in bacon grease, Rook adds a pile of sliced Spanish onions, producing an intoxicating aroma. Rook performs his magic, flipping over the golden brown potatoes and transparent onions while remarking, "The real trick is getting the potatoes and onions done at the same time. You don't want the onions to burn before the potatoes. You have to pay attention for the 12 minutes or so you are preparing lyonnaise."

Here are also three tips for great mashed potatoes:

Q. How can you avoid gluey mashed potatoes?

A. America's Test Kitchen suggests it's in the preparation. If the milk or half-and-half is stirred into the potatoes before the butter, the water in the milk or half-and-half works with the starch in the potatoes to make them gluey and heavy. When butter is added first, the fat coats the starch molecules and prevents them from reacting with the water in the dairy product. The result is smoother, more velvety mashed potatoes.

Q. What are other recommendations for successful mashed potatoes?

A. When preparing mashed potatoes, the Idaho Potato Commission suggests placing a quarter of a lemon in the cooking water to prevent the potatoes from breaking up, and cooking them in their skins to prevent water logging. After cooking, pull the skins from the end of the potatoes to remove easily. While mashing, gradually add butter and warm milk to the potatoes to gauge consistency. Then season.

Q. What is the best way to boil potatoes?

A. Potatoes should be scrubbed (rather than soaked) and boiled in their skins to retain nutrients. Potatoes should be placed in the cooking water before it is heated. To prevent potatoes from discoloration, add a touch of lemon juice to the water. To enrich the flavor of potatoes, boil in a favorite stock or for a mild, sweet taste, boil in milk. Remove skins as soon as the potatoes are cool enough to hold.