Sunday, August 19, 2012

National Potato Day – August 19th

If you grew up in the Mid West like I did, you grew up on meat and potatoes aka “The Spud”.  We bake, fry, and boil them.  They are added to stews and soups.  They are honored at ever family gathering by their presence in some way.  I don’t know anyone that does not like potatoes, so since today is National Potato Day I would like to share some new ways to fix potatoes. 

In the ancient ruins of Peru and Chile, archaeologists have found potato remains that date back to 500 B.C. The Incas grew and ate them and also worshipped them. The Incas called the potato "papas," as they do today.

Spanish explorers and conquerors took the potato to Spain in lieu of the gold they did not find. The Spanish thought that they were a kind of a truffle and called them "tartuffo." Potatoes were soon a standard supply item on the Spanish ships; they noticed that the sailors who ate papas (potatoes) did not suffer from scurvy.

The potato was carried on to Italy and England, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and to France.  Potatoes had been introduced to the United States several times throughout the 1600s. They were not widely grown for almost a century until the early 1700’s, when they were planted by Scotch-Irish immigrants, and from there spread across the nation. 

It is said that humans can actually survive healthily on a diet of potatoes supplemented only with milk or butter, which contain the two vitamins not provided by potatoes.  They are high in both vitamins and minerals and store well making them popular all over the world and becoming part of traditions in all parts of the world.

Growing up, I was served mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, creamed potatoes with ham and kale, potato soup, beef stew with potatoes and scalloped potatoes on a regular basis.  These traditional dishes came from my mother’s German heritage and being raised on a farm.  

Types of Potatoes


Russets (such as Idahos) are marked by a thick, rough brown skin with numerous eyes. Low in moisture and high in starch, they make excellent, fluffy mashed potatoes; because they tend to be a bit dry and mealy, they benefit from the addition of butter and milk or cream, which they absorb easily.

Yukon Golds

These large, oval potatoes have a golden skin and yellow flesh with a rich, buttery flavor and a moist, creamy texture. Their medium starch content makes them a good all-purpose potato suitable for both boiling and baking, although they tend to fall apart when cooked too long. They make exceptionally good mashed potatoes, French fries, and potato salad.

Red Potato

Red potatoes are firm, round, moist, and waxy, with thin skins—a good choice for salads, for roasting with meats, or whenever you want your potatoes to hold their shape. They’re especially popular as new potatoes.  This is probably my favorite because of the thin skin and it allows me to leave the skin on.

New Potatoes

Also called baby or creamer potatoes, these are any potatoes that are harvested young, before their sugars are fully converted to starch. Generally, the smaller they are, the better the taste. They’re sweeter and waxier than mature potatoes, with very thin skins that don’t need to be peeled. Since they’re firm and flavorful, they’re ideal for potato salads and roasting whole. They go soft quickly and should be eaten within 3 days.

You can find new varieties in the market today like fingerling potatoes and even purple potatoes.  People are using sweet potatoes in place of the old potato we know. 

You may make them into a potato pancake, creamed them, make scalloped potatoes, add them to a stew, make a potato soup, bake them and put many different toppings on them, twice bake them, French fry them or American fry them, make hash browns, grill them and I could go on and on. 

I thought today I would share a couple of not so familiar recipes with you and bring a little diversity into your life with recipes I’ve had from other cultures and loved. 

Polish Potato Dumpling (Kartoflane Kluski or kopytka or "little hooves")

I used to eat these when I lived on the south side of Milwaukee where there was a huge Polish population.  They look like “little hooves”.  Nice memories come from certain foods don’t they?  They are super simple to make.

2 ¼ lbs. potatoes
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups flour
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs

Use a nice starching potato like an Idaho Russet. Peel the potatoes, cook in salted water for 20 minutes. Mash them, add egg yolk (make sure potato is not too hot so the egg does not scrabble), salt and flour (if you need more, add as much flour as necessary to form a smooth, cohesive dough). Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil. Divide dough into 4 parts. On a lightly floured surface roll pieces of dough like a snake. Cut at an angle into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces. Repeat with remained dough.

Drop dumplings into the boiling water (in batches, if necessary, so as not to crowd) and return to the boil. Reduce heat and cook 1 to 3 minutes (remove one with a slotted spoon to test for doneness when the dumpling floats to the top). Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked dumplings to a colander and drain.

Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer drained dumplings to a serving dish and sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs on top.

Homemade Gnocchi (Italian Potato Dumplings)

This is a great way to use your left over mashed potatoes.

2 1/2 c. boiled potatoes, mashed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Italian style tomato sauce

Place mashed potatoes, eggs, and salt in mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, mixing well. Place dough in floured board and add rest of flour. Knead dough for 3 or 4 minutes. If dough becomes too sticky, sprinkle board with more flour. Cut dough into 6 pieces.

Roll dough into long sausage like strips and cut into pieces 2/3 inch long. Sprinkle dumplings with flour.  Many chef’s roll the gnocchi down a fork to give it a texture, but you do not need to do this unless you want to fuss.  Have a large pan with 8 quarts of boiling water ready and remove with strainer when they rise to top.  Place in hot serving dish and repeat operation until all dumplings are cooked. (Keep water boiling during whole process.)

Add a very simple tomato sauce to dumplings and 2/3 cup of cheese, mixing well while you are stirring in the a hot frying pan. Sprinkle rest of cheese on top. Serves 4-6.

If you are making gnocchi make extra.  They freeze nicely and they will be ready for another day.  You may also serve them very simply by tossing them in browned butter and adding a little rosemary or herb of your choice or you can make gnocchi 'n' cheese by putting the cooked gnocchi in a buttered casserole dish, dot with butter, and sprinkle shredded parmesan and/or fontina on top. Pass under the broiler until cheese is melted.  The Italians sure know how to cook!

Latvian Potato Pancake or Latkes

Potato pancakes are shallow fried pancakes of grated or ground potato, flour and egg, often flavored with grated onion or garlic and seasoning. Potato pancakes may be topped with a variety of condiments such as sour cream, cottage cheese, apple sauce, sugar or ungarnished.  Potato pancakes can also be made from mashed potatoes to produce pancake shaped croquettes.

2 cups peeled and shredded potatoes (You may also use left over mashed or frozen hash browns)
1 tablespoon grated onion
3 beaten eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup oil for frying

Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible.

In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together.

In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels. Serve hot!  Garnish with sour cream.

Potato Knishes

This is often served as a holiday dish, but you don’t have to wait for a holiday. 

4 cups flour
Kosher salt to taste
6 tbsp. canola oil
4 Russet potatoes (2 1/2 lbs.), peeled and cut into 1" pieces
3 onions, minced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. water

Whisk together flour and 1 tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center and add 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. warm water and 2 tbsp. oil. Stir to form a dough and knead briefly. Divide dough into 4 pieces. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

Put potatoes into a 4 qt. saucepan and add water to cover. Season with salt, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium; simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and pass through a food mill or potato ricer into a large bowl.  I use my antique potato ricer that I got at an auction and picked up very cheaply.  I love it so much because it is my grandma green color I love and it is from around the 40’s.  I show it off as decoration on a kitchen shelf. 

Heat remaining oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add onions, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 15 minutes. Whip onions into potatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 375°. Working with one piece of dough at a time, put dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll to 1/16" thickness. Using a 3" cookie cutter, cut out 16 circles. Spoon 1 tbsp. of potato mixture onto center of each circle. Brush edges with egg wash and bring up edges with your fingers and seal to form a purse. Transfer knishes to 2 greased baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Repeat, filling 2 greased baking sheets in all. Bake knishes until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly; serve warm.  This will make a lot of mini knishes.  You may make as large or as small as you want.


Use Idaho Russet potatoes.

Place the knish seam side down on the baking sheet for a prettier presentation.

Also, you can make smaller appetizer sized knish simply by the size of your cookie cutter. You’ll need to bake them for less time—depending how small you go, start checking them at 15 – 20 minutes or when you begin to smell them.

You may use one of my favorite product and save some work if you want to use puffed pastry.  You'll need 2 boxes.  It will be a different pastry with butter, but it saves work.

What is your favorite potato dish?  Do you have a family potato recipe that has come down from older generations?  My favorite dish is my sister Tony's potato dish.  We called it Tony's Taters.  It is pure fat and not the healthiest dish.  I only ate it at family functions.   It was frozen hash browns with cream and half and half with lots of salt and pepper topped with chucks of butter and baked until it was golden brown on top.  We lost my sister this year to breast cancer.  I don't know if I can eat them again.  Maybe to make them in her honor and memory to have her with me.   Make sure you share your favorite family recipes with your children so it continues on to the next generation.

Have a great National Potato Day and eat a potato in some form.  It’s good for you. 

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

No comments:

Post a Comment