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Tis The Season For Potato Side Dishes

Written by the YesChef staff

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YesChef Francis Mallmann Desktop
YesChef Francis Mallmann Desktop
Francis Mallmann
Teaches his Argentine Cuisine
Potatoes are the perfect side dish. They are healthy, inexpensive to buy, and incredibly versatile to cook with. Potatoes can be baked, boiled, roasted, and grilled. They can be fried, mashed, smashed, and sauteed. They can be made crispy, creamy, and fluffy. They can be cut and sizzled into delicious French Fries or stuffed with rich and tasty delights from cheese and sour cream to mouth-watering bacon. As Francis Mallmann sums it up: “You can do incredible things with potatoes.”

Because potatoes can be made in so many ways, the options for choosing your potato side dishes during the holidays are endless. Below we discuss some basics about the potato, including what a potato is; its history; the common types of potatoes and ways they are used; why potatoes are perfect to use for side dishes during the holidays; and some demonstrations of world-class potato side dish recipes as shared by legendary chefs.
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Francis Mallmann
Teaches his Argentine Cuisine

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Facts About the Potato

What is a potato? Classified as a root vegetable, potatoes are tubers, which are types of stems that grow underground. These starchy veggies are the most heavily consumed vegetables in the United States by far (tomatoes are second); the average American eats nearly 50 pounds of potatoes every year. The potato, which is easy to grow, is also the first vegetable ever to be grown in space. This happened in 1995 on the Space Shuttle Columbia, when NASA and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers collaborated on a project aimed at nourishing future astronauts on rocket ships and space colonies.

A History of Potatoes

The potato, one of the world’s most popular and important foods, did not originate in Ireland (or even Idaho) as some people might assume. Potatoes were domesticated in the Andes of South America about eight millennia ago and were brought in the 16th century to Europe (by the conquering Spanish, who also left with corn, tomatoes, and avocados.) The potato initially struggled to grow in its new climate but eventually found the perfect conditions in Ireland, where it became a staple food of the peasant class. In poor Irish villages, potatoes were valued because they were nutritious – potatoes are full of essential vitamins and nutrients – and easier to produce and to store than other crops. By the 19th century, potatoes had spread east to Russia and across the world. In Europe particularly, the crop – which grows underground and can remain hidden from invaders (and tax collectors) – had become an important food reserve for peasant populations, especially during wars. Ireland’s economic dependence on the potato led to the Irish Potato Famine (or “The Great Hunger”) of the 1840s, when a plant disease destroyed most of the country’s potato plants and caused about a million people to starve. In the United States, the potato was perceived in the 19th century as a food for animals, but that began to change when a disease resistant potato developed by an American horticulturist was adopted by farmers in Idaho, which would become a potato capital. Worldwide more than a billion people eat potatoes annually; for human consumption, it is the world’s most important crop after rice and wheat.

Main Potato Types

There are immense varieties of potatoes and they vary significantly by size, shape, and color. Here are some of the most common varieties you will encounter at your local supermarket: Russet Potatoes: Russet potatoes are big, fluffy, starchy potatoes with skin that is light brown and with flesh that is white. Russet potatoes are excellent for baking and mashing. Yukon Gold Potatoes: These creamy, immensely flavorful potatoes are superb for your oven roasted potatoes recipe. Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes tend to be large with orange flesh. And they are sweet, as the name suggests. They are a staple of holiday meals. Fingerling Potatoes: Fingerling potatoes, also known as baby potatoes, are small potatoes that have finger-like shapes and a stubby appearance. These very versatile potatoes are great for making oven roasted potatoes, among countless other side dishes. Purple Potatoes: Purple potatoes have an oval shape; both their flesh and skin are purple. They can be made in many ways and are used often in soups or Nicoise salads. Red Potatoes: These round or oval potatoes, which are small or medium-sized, has a smooth thin skin and a firm white flesh. Red potatoes are good for pan frying, boiling, grilling, steaming, and scalloping – and the red potato goes well in a salad or soup among other types of dishes.

Potato Health Benefits

Potatoes are highly nutritious. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They have lots of Vitamin C (which has helped countless sailors stay alive throughout history by preventing scurvy) and are filled with antioxidants. Potatoes also are rich in the nutrient potassium, which is highly beneficial in protecting the muscles, heart, and nervous system.

Adding these root vegetables to your holiday menu – whether your recipe call on you to place them on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven or combine them with herbs and make a salad bowl out of them – will in most cases add substance and nutrition to your meal.

A few tips to keep in mind: Dark potatoes and purple potatoes tend to be the healthiest of all potatoes as they tend to have more antioxidants. And if you want to maximize your potato’s nutritional benefit, eat the skin, which is full of fiber and aids in digestion.

Popular Potato Dishes

Potatoes are versatile to cook with, in part because they can taste great while providing substance with just a few simple seasonings added to them such as olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs such as fresh garlic cloves and fresh rosemary. For these reasons, the possibilities for cooking potato-based recipes are virtually limitless. Here’s a summary of some of the more traditional potato-based dishes that are cooked every day by professional and amateur chefs alike. They include crispy oven roasted potatoes, creamy mashed potatoes, various types of fried potatoes, baked potatoes, and many more. Oven Roasted Potatoes One classic potato recipe involves oven roasting your potatoes. A common oven roasted potato recipe generally calls on the cook to peel and cut the potatoes into wedges or cubes, immerse them in cold water and then boil them; season them with fresh herbs and spices such as sea salt, rosemary, and garlic along with extra virgin olive oil; and roast them in an air fryer or oven at a high temperature so that the exterior becomes crispy while the exterior is soft. Great oven roasted potatoes are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Mashed Potatoes Creamy and buttery mashed potatoes are a necessity on Thanksgiving, but they make a delicious recipe really anytime, especially during the holidays. Most mashed potato recipes are a variation of the following: Boiling peeled or unpeeled Russet and / or Yukon Gold potatoes over high heat until they’re soft; draining and combining them with a warm mixture of melted butter and cream or milk; and mashing and beating the mixture until everything is smooth. For seasonings, salt and pepper are a must. But also feel free to add other seasonings. Fresh herbs or spices like fresh garlic as well as garlic powder are great for adding flavor to your mashed potatoes recipe. Baked Potatoes Another popular, easy-to-make recipe involving potatoes is baked potatoes. Like with oven roasted potatoes, when you bake a potato the key is to make it fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. (Many recipes call for the use of russet potatoes to bake your potato because when they bake they more easily achieve a crispy skin.) You make a baked potato by putting your potato on a baking sheet and sprinkling it with salt (and olive oil or butter, depending on your preferred recipe). When you bake your potato, you will want to get the oven very hot – at least 425 degrees Farenheit – in order to get your skin crisp. Bake your potato in the oven (on your baking sheet) for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the skin is crisp. When it’s done, cut it open lengthwise with a knife and for flavor, add the seasonings and any herbs and spices of choice. For maximum deliciousness at the expense of some saturated fat, sour cream and cheddar cheese (among other heavy ingredients) may be added at this time. Fried Potatoes In addition to oven roasted potatoes, baked potatoes, and mashed potatoes, another way to prepare and serve the potato, if you don’t mind a higher fat content, is to fry it in some fashion. There are many types of recipes and ways to serve fried potatoes, but generally speaking, they are made in cooking oil (often on the stove or in a fryer and not in the oven) along with seasonings and herbs. Some common types of fried potatoes are French Fries (or chips, as they are known in the UK and some other places); tater tots and hash browns; potato pancakes like latkes, the traditional food served on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah; and home fries, among many others.

Holiday Potato Recipes

Try to imagine the holidays without potatoes: No mashed or sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. No oven roasted potatoes or potato casserole on Christmas. Hanukkah without those crispy potato latkes. Without potatoes, the festive months of late fall and winter would not only be less flavorful but colder and less comforting. Whether they be crispy or creamy, potatoes make the perfect base for a holiday season dish. Here are some special potato side dish recipes brought to you by some of the world’s finest chefs: Smashed Potatoes (Francis Mallmann) One professional-quality potato dish you can make, for a delicious contrast of both crunchy and tender, is Francis’ Smashed Potatoes. The recipe for this wonderful dish begins with the boiling of two potatoes in cold water, in a cast iron pan, until they are tender. Once the boiling is complete and the potatoes are out of the pan, the next step, Francis instructs us, is to press down on the potatoes with both hands until they’re smushed into a single flattened potato (“See how beautiful it looks?” Francis says in the video as he admires the smashed potatoes.) In his demonstration, Francis scoops up the smashed potatoes with a giant spatula and takes them to his plancha, a round flattop grill. He grills the potatoes very slowly, inside the pan and with clarified butter, for an hour. “Now, you may say: ‘I live in a flat in New York or in Hong Kong – how the hell am I going to cook these things at home?!’” Francis says. His answer is a cast-iron pan, which will also produce, he says, a beautiful thick crunchy crust and a tender interior. When you’re making it, be sure to flip the potato over and cook it for about 30 minutes until it’s golden brown before serving it hot. Kwame’s GBD Potatoes (Kwame Onwuachi) The ‘GBD’ in Kwame Onwuachi’s GBD Potatoes dish stand for Golden Brown Delicious, and who wouldn’t want a golden, brown, and delicious side dish – invented by one of the world’s most creative chefs – at their holiday dinner? The GBD potatoes accompany Kwame’s curry dish along with steamed white rice, but would pair just as well with most of your holiday entrees. Kwame’s GBD potatoes are made by dicing a potato and boiling the potatoes in a pan, with salt, until they’re tender. Next you’ll want to drain the potatoes in a colander, put them on a baking sheet, and then cool them in the refrigerator. While heating oil in a frying pan, gently smash the potatoes and then fry them on 350 degrees until golden brown. Put them on a roasting rack or paper towel lined plate or tray and season them with salt. The potatoes, which are to be coated in a green seasoning aeoli, will be crispy and unbelievably tasty. Asma’s Sweet Potato If you want to be bold with your flavors and really do something different with your sweet potato dish, follow Asma Khan’s delicious recipe for her Shakarkandi, or sweet potato salad. A “fabulous” and “quite unusual” way to make sweet potatoes, Asma tells us, this salad combines sweet, sour, savory, and bitter elements together to really wow the palate. After scrubbing the sweet potatoes clean, place them – with their skin – on the coal embers of a barbecue (Or in an oven, if that’s what you are working with.) Turn the potatoes around as they cook, to ensure they’re cooking evenly, until they’re soft. (Once you can poke a sharp knife into the center of the sweet potato, they’re ready.) In the oven, you’ll want to cook the sweet potato on high heat for about a half-hour, until soft. Once the sweet potato has cooled, remove its skin, cut it into cubes, place all the sweet potatoes into a bowl, and add green chilies, cumin seeds, chili powder, Himalayan rock salt, and lemon juice. Before serving, top your sweet potato salad with chopped cilantro leaves. Patagonian Potato Galette (Francis Mallmann) Another delicious potato-based side dish that is a great match for the holiday dinner table is Francis’ Patagonian Potato Galette. According to this recipe, Francis cuts his potato into extremely thin slices, brings them to the plancha and – cooking them in butter – he arranges overlapping potato slices into a circular shape, enclosing it in the middle with more potatoes. The potatoes will stick together as they cook; critical to this dish’s success, Francis explains, is to be patient and not flip the potato over until it has formed a crust. Alternatively, you can cook a potato galette on a cast iron pan over a medium flame. Nancy’s Roasted Potatoes (Nancy Silverton) A side of oven roasted potatoes provides a tasty and satisfying comfort food to the plate of most holiday meals. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better roasted potatoes recipe than the one authored by chef Nancy Silverton: her Roasted Potatoes with Bagna Cauta. To make it, Nancy pre-heats her oven to 500 degrees and cuts three pounds of potatoes in half, lengthwise. In a single layer, she puts the potatoes in a large pan before covering them with extra virgin olive oil and butter along with garlic cloves, fresh rosemary, and sage. Next, she adds salt and puts the potatoes on a medium-low flame, on which the potatoes should simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. The potatoes should cook slowly, on the stove until they’re almost completely cooked, but before they are done, Nancy roasts them in the oven until a knife can be inserted into the potato’s flesh with little resistance. Nancy turns off the heat and has the potatoes steep in the butter-oil mixture for 10 minutes, after which she pours the mixture on a baking sheet, to which she adds salt. The potatoes are transferred from the butter-oil mixture to the baking sheet; sage, fresh rosemary, and garlic are scattered on top. Finally, Nancy roasts the potatoes until their edges are brown and then serves them on a platter, cut side up. She adds the roasted garlic and crumbles the sage and charred rosemary on top.

Potatoes, A Love Affair




YesChef Francis Mallmann Desktop
YesChef Francis Mallmann Desktop

Francis Mallmann

Francis Mallmann, the pioneer of open-fire cooking, is South America’s most famous chef and is known for his rustic open-fire cooking style in wild and remote locations. Join the James Beard award-winning author and Chef’s Table star as he brings you on a journey into his kitchen in the Patagonian wild where he teaches you how to master the grill and his Argentine-style barbecue.

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