There are about a hundred ways to prepare potatoes for serving, but most are just a slight variation to the basic three of boiling, baking and frying methods. The time it takes to cook any potato depends on its size or the size that you have cut or shaped it. The same principle applies to the amount of butter, seasoning , cream, milk or other ingredients that you use to prepare it. By adding a small amount at a time, you can achieve the desired taste and consistency. A general and easy rule of thumb is to use long potatoes for baking and frying and round potatoes for boiling.
Boiled potatoes can be cooked peeled or in their skins and peeled after cooking using gently boiling water. When they are finished cooking, cover them with melted butter and sprinkle them with fresh chopped parsley and they are called PARSLIED POTATOES or add springs of mint to the water while cooking and serve with diced mint and they are now MINTED POTATOES. Cold boiled potatoes, sliced or diced, blended with a dressing become POTATO SALAD. This mixture can be enhanced by adding hard boiled eggs, celery, diced onions, and bacon bits. Chopped parsley and paprika sprinkled on top can be the finishing touch. Sliced boiled potatoes can be sautéed in butter and these become LYONNAIS POTATOES by adding sautéed onions to them. After boiling, drain and dry them then mash and beat until smooth with the addition of butter and cream or milk and you have a nice MASHED POTATO dish. These can be turned into DUCHESS POTATOES by adding a slightly beaten egg and a drop of nutmeg. Now they can be piped through a pastry bag to form attractive mounds or to be used for a boarder for meat platters. Brush the finished form with melted butter or a little more beaten egg and brown in a 400 degree oven or carefully brown under the broiler. Duchess potatoes that are shaped like a cone or ball and breaded can be deep fried as CROQUETTES or just formed like a patty, dusted with flour and pan fried for an OLD FASHIONED POTATO. Duchess potatoes with Parmesan cheese blended with it and baked in a buttered pan with slices of Swiss cheese melting on top are called PARMESAN POTATOES.
SCALLOPED POTATOES are peeled, uniformly thin sliced, raw potatoes that are baked in a Béchamel sauce until tender. Chopped parsley and bread crumbs can be their topping. When cheese is added to this dish it becomes AU GRATIN. Several different types of cheese can be used, but experiment until you find the one you like best or even a combination of them.
BAKED POTATOES should be scrubbed and dried before baking. The potato should also be punctured to allow the steam to escape so that the potato won’t explode in the oven. Baked potatoes are delicious served with sour cream or butter. Twice baked potatoes are baked potatoes that have had the pulp removed from their skins, doctored and then restored back to the skins and baked again until golden brown. Some suggestions for the doctoring process are to mash them and add eggs (duchess style), a variety of cheese, mushrooms, vegetables like spinach or asparagus tips, diced cooked ham or bacon and to garnish with paprika or chopped parsley. Some restaurants rub bacon fat of the skins of the potato before baking to add more flavor.
FRENCH FRIED POTATOES are normally 1/2 inch thick square potato sticks that are deep fried in grease at 375 degrees until golden brown. The main trick is not to crowd the pan so that the potatoes can brown evenly. This can be accomplished by blanching several batches before the final cooking. Blanching means to cook until tender, but not browning them. That way it doesn’t take long to finish the browning time. Variations are shoestring potatoes, potato sticks, straw potatoes and cut in slices potato chips.
Sometimes just changing the shape of the potato makes it a more attractive dish. Use a melon ball cutter to form raw potatoes balls which can be sautéed and served with chopped parsley, which are called CHATEAU POTATOES. These can be rolled in a little meat glaze before sprinkling on the parsley and they are now called PARISIAN POTATOES. It is not the name of the potato type that is important, but it’s presentation, taste and the way it complements the rest of the meal. It is easy to be creative with potatoes.