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The Potato: Undeserved Bad Rep

The potato is misunderstood.

Long thought of by many as unhealthy, that reputation is off-base, experts say. It's what folks put ON potatoes, and how they're prepared, that can make potato dishes bad for you.

On The Early Show Thursday, Bon Appetit magazine Contributing Editor Dede Wilson stuck up for the potatoes, pointing out their merits.

With food prices spiking, the good news is that the potato is still cheap! And, contrary to popular belief, it DOES have plenty of nutritional value.

The Food and Drug Administration has praise for the potato:

  • Calories: One medium-sized potato has 110 calories
  • Fat: 100 percent fat-free
  • Cholesterol: Cholesterol-free
  • Sodium: Sodium-free
  • Potassium: Good source of potassium when consumed with skin. Potatoes rank highest for potassium content among the 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables and the 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits.
  • Fiber: One wholesome, satisfying potato contributes two grams of fiber to the diet, eight percent of the recommended daily value.
  • Vitamin C: Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C (45 percent of the recommended daily value), which is the same amount as a tangerine, and more vitamin C than one medium tomato (40 percent of the recommended daily value) or sweet potato (30 percent of the recommended daily value).

    A potato isn't just a potato. As you'll notice when you head to the store, there are several different varieties.

    There are three basic categories to keep in mind. These categories matter because some potatoes work better in certain dishes.

    STARCHY: Most commonly called Russet or Idaho potatoes, these potatoes are high in starch and are characterized by netted brown skin and white flesh. Russets are light and fluffy when cooked, making them ideal for baking and mashing. They're also wonderful for frying and roasting.

    WAXY: These are usually round red or white potatoes that are creamy in texture and hold their shape well after cooking. This makes them well-suited for salads, roasting, boiling and steaming. Round-reds are often referred to as "new potatoes" but, technically, "new" refers to any variety of potatoes that's harvested before reaching maturity.

    YUKON GOLD: These potatoes have a dense, creamy texture and make great mashed potatoes; with their golden color, you almost can be fooled into thinking they're buttered!

    Other potatoes include:

    BLUE AND PURPLE: They originated in South America and have begun to gain popularity in the United States. Blue and purple potatoes are mostly available in the fall. These relatively uncommon tubers have a subtle nutty flavor, and flesh that ranges in hue from dark blue or lavender, to white. Microwaving preserves the color best, but steaming and baking are also favorable methods of preparation.

    FINGERLING: These are baby versions of the long white potato that falls into the waxy category.

    The United States Potato Board confirms that "French fries" are the most popular way Americans eat potatoes.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the average annual American potato consumption is 126 pounds:

  • Frozen, which is mostly comprised of french fries (53 lbs)
  • Fresh (44 lbs)
  • Chips (16 lbs)
  • Dehydrated (13 lbs)

    Wilson showed how to make delicious French fries at home. And -- these are healthier than most restaurant fries, because they're baked, not fried.

    She also has a spin on mashed potatoes: These potatoes are baked to add extra lavor. The recipe also calls for the addtion of baked carrots, for a sweet touch.

    For potato recipes, go to Page 2.

  • RECIPES

    Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad

    From Bon Appétit, July 2006

    Potatoes in three colors give this salad an all-American look.

    Makes about 8 cups.

    From Rick Browne

    1 cup chopped green onions, divided
    1 cup sour cream
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1/4 cup white wine vinegar
    4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
    2 teaspoons sugar
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 pound unpeeled small or baby red-skinned potatoes
    1 pound small purple or blue potatoes, peeled
    1 pound unpeeled small white creamer or White Rose potatoes
    2 cups cooked fresh peas, or one 10-ounce package frozen, thawed
    1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese (about 6 ounces)
    Paprika

    Whisk 1/2 cup green onions and next 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Cover and chill dressing.

    This can be made a day ahead-of-time. Keep it chilled.

    Place all potatoes in large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and boil until tender, 10 to 15 minutes (time will vary depending on size and variety of potatoes). Drain and cool to room temperature.

    Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place in large bowl. Add dressing, peas, and blue cheese; toss gently. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

    Chive and Cucumber Vichyssoise

    From Bon Appétit April 2002

    This variation on the classic chilled leek and potato soup includes a cucumber-chive puree, which adds a refreshing and flavorful twist.

    Makes 4 servings.

    1 tablespoon butter
    2 leeks (white and pale green parts only), sliced (about 2 cups)
    2 1/4 cups canned vegetable broth
    1 6-ounce russet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1/2 cup whipping cream
    1 8-ounce cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 1/3 cups)
    1 cup chopped fresh chives
    2 large radishes, cut into matchstick-size strips (optional)

    Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks; sauté just until soft but not yet brown, about 5 minutes. Add broth and potato. Simmer until potato is very tender, about 12 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer potato and leeks to blender. Add half of cooking liquid and blend to coarse puree. Add cream and blend, using on/off turns. Transfer to large bowl. Combine cucumber, chives and remaining cooking liquid in blender; puree until smooth. Mix into leek puree. Season with salt and pepper. Chill, at least 4 hours and up to 6 hours.
    Stir soup and ladle into bowls. Garnish with radishes, if desired.

    Bistro French Fries with Parsley and Garlic

    From Bon Appétit September 2001

    In this baked version of shoestring potatoes, the texture of the fries varies -- some are crisp and some soft, but all are delicious!

    Makes 4 servings.

    4 medium russet potatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds), unpeeled
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    Coarse salt

    Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425°F. Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick slices, then cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Pat potato strips dry with paper towels. Combine potatoes and oil in large bowl; toss to coat well. Divide potatoes between 2 large baking sheets; spread in single layer. Bake until potatoes are deep golden brown, turning and rearranging potatoes frequently, about 40 minutes. Transfer potatoes to bowl. Toss with parsley, garlic and coarse salt.

    Baked Potato and Carrot Mash

    From Bon Appétit March 2008

    Baking the potatoes and carrots before mashing them gives this side a rich, complex flavor. One pound of carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise if large, cut crosswise into inch-long pieces

    Makes 8 servings

    From Roy Finamore

    1/3 cup water
    6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature, divided
    3 large russet potatoes (about 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 pounds, total)
    3/4 cup sour cream
    1/2 cup half and half, warmed
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Place carrots and 1/3 cup water in 8x8x2-inch baking dish. Dot carrots with 2 tablespoons butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place carrots and potatoes in oven; bake 30 minutes. Stir carrots and pierce potatoes with fork in several places. Bake until carrots and potatoes are tender, about 50 minutes longer. Using ricer, press carrots into large bowl, scraping in any juices from baking dish. Halve potatoes. Working in batches, scoop potato flesh into ricer, then rice potatoes into bowl with carrots. Using electric mixer, beat in 4 tablespoons butter, then sour cream, warm half and half, and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

    Butter 13x9x2-inch oval baking dish. Spread potato mixture in dish, swirling mixture to create peaks. Can be made a day ahead. Cover; chill.

    Bake in 350°F oven until heated through and brown in spots, about 25 minutes (35 minutes if chilled).