A pantry staple, the humble potato is as good roasted and sprinkled with rosemary as it is sliced and deep-fried into french fries. Potatoes aren’t just extremely versatile — they’re also one of the cheapest buys in the produce section. At Costco, you can buy a 15-pound bag of potatoes for $8.59, totaling only .57 cents per pound.
That’s a great deal, given just how much nutrition is in the lowly spud. The potato has more potassium than a banana, along with vitamin C and vitamin B6, all at only 110 calories per serving.
Yet the pejorative term “couch potato” has unfairly left these glorious tubers with a bad reputation — and any petitions to change the name for lazy people to “sofa turnips” just haven’t caught on. But you can celebrate the potato in your own way by making these easy and affordable dishes.
Fried Potato Dishes
Fried potatoes are among the most common side dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some are even frequently consumed as afternoon and late-night snacks. The following potato preparation methods are just some of the most popular ways to cook fried potatoes.
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Croquettes were likely born out of frugality. They’re made of a starchy base and ingredients that vary by region, and almost every country and cuisine has a version. In the U.S., you usually find the potato-based croquette made with the basic starch-binder-textural ingredient combination that serves as a base for variation.
Croquettes are a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. When you combine them with whatever other ingredients you happen to have on hand, you can come up with some innovative versions without a recipe. For example, if you have some extra ground meat and mirepoix left over from a Bolognese sauce, add that to your croquettes for a quick and easy meal. You can also use leftover vegetables, poultry or cheese.
Home fries are about as American as a Norman Rockwell painting. Like most comfort foods, home fries don’t come with a set of hard-and-fast preparation rules.
When making home fries, you get the best results from starchy potatoes like Russet Burbanks. Russet Burbanks develop a creamy interior, a hallmark of well-made home fries, during precooking, which you must do to get even cooking during frying. For the best flavor, fry the potatoes in unsalted butter.
Just like Corn Flakes, Popsicles and Jell-O, the Tater Tots name is a registered trademark — owned by Ore-Ida, a division of the H.J. Heinz Company — that has become generalized over time. Today, all deep-fried, cylindrical shredded-potato foods are known as tater tots.
Americans consume around 70 million pounds of tater tots per year. Although tater tots are often bought premade and frozen, you can save money by making your own tots at home. Tots can be made using just shredded potatoes, or you can mix in fresh spring vegetables or bits of bacon or crab to make a delicious, unique side.
There are plenty of french fry recipes — many claiming to be the “best,” “perfect” and “greatest.” When it comes to fries, everyone has their preferences, but all well-made fries have a crisp, golden exterior that reveals a fluffy interior.
Potato choice and cooking technique affect french fry quality. With just enough starch to absorb oil without turning greasy, the ubiquitous, inexpensive Russet Burbank variety has the perfect composition for a fry. The blanching, resting and frying technique of cooking french fries produces the ideal crispness and color.
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Like a Spanish version of home fries, patatas bravas are a staple of tapas crawls. And every autonomous region of Spain has its own variation of sauce to accompany these bites of caramelized spuds.
In Castile and León, for example, you find patatas bravas served with a tomato-based, sweet-and-spicy paprika sauce. In Andalucia, they typically come dressed with a pungent tomato-based garlic and Cognac sauce. And in Catalonia, you often get both a tomato-based sauce and aioli.
Like croquettes and home fries, you can consider latkes a food belonging to the culinary world in almost every country. Poland has “placki ziemniaczane,” Iran has “kuku sib-zamini,” and America has potato pancakes. Although the names are different, all refer to roughly the same final product: thin, shallow-fried pancakes made of shredded potatoes, flour and a binder, usually egg.
Latkes give a lot of latitude for adding personal touches without modifying the base recipe and making a different dish. Britons add finely diced onions to their latkes; Swedes make theirs with milk and wheat flour and serve them alongside pork and lingonberry jam; and Czechs make theirs with marjoram, caraway seeds and garlic.
Like the best french fries, the best potato chips are simple and elegant. Thin or thick, kettle cooked or shallow fried, potato chips are more than a snack — they’re a part of American folklore.
Despite the popular notion that a frustrated chef named George Crum created chips in response to a guest’s less-than-stellar critique of his french fries, the most credible attribution of the food’s creation might lie with Katie Speck Wicks, one of Crum’s cooks. Wick’s 1917 obituary notes her as the inventor of the chip.
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A diner favorite, hash browns meet the general requirements of breakfast foods: quick, inexpensive and easy to make. Similar to a flattened tater tot without the flour, hash browns use potato starch itself to hold together, making the good old standby Russet Burbanks the best choice for hash browns.
Hash browns take well to secondary ingredients and an array of herbs and spices. When made in casserole form, the addition of ground meats like chicken and beef and vegetables like squash and bell peppers turn the humble hash brown into an all-in-one meal for the budget-minded cook.
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Baked Potato Dishes
Although they might not be as convenient to eat on the go as their fried counterparts, baked potatoes are still a popular side dish. Check out a few ways you can prepare delicious oven-baked potatoes.
You can thank the American steakhouse for the popularity of the giant, buttered, baked potatoes that complement your New York strip or rib eye. And the list of baked potato variations could conceivably run in the thousands.
Although you might not break any new ground in the baked-potato game, don’t hesitate to design your own loaded baked potatoes to suit your tastes. A few topping variations to experiment with include bacon with an over-easy egg, diced pancetta with bocconcini cheese and sauteed rapini with cheddar.
Twice-baked potatoes can be thought of as remodeled loaded baked potatoes. Take a leftover baked potato, scoop out the flesh and mix it with secondary ingredients before returning it to its shell for a second run in the oven.
Just like loaded baked potatoes, twice-baked potatoes leave a lot of room for creativity. So next time you find a few day-old baked potatoes in your fridge, try out your own ingredient combinations, like chèvre and vegetables.
Hasselback potatoes have a lot more surface area than regular baked potatoes, which means more real estate for secondary ingredients. Take advantage of the space between the slices before baking by stuffing them full of fresh herbs, caraway seeds and sauteed onions; pesto and Parmesan; crispy breadcrumbs and chives; or rendered bacon fat and matchstick-sliced apples — just about anything you like could work.
The Hasselback technique likely originated at Restaurant Hasselbacken in Sweden circa 1700, hence the name. Regardless of the dish’s origin, you can make the most of the method by using generous amounts of butter or olive oil for peak crispness.
There’s something special about the crisp edges and creamy flesh of well-made roasted potatoes. Like most iconic potato dishes, hundreds of variations exist, but they all typically call for a fat, such as olive oil or butter, to help create the right texture.
You can really go to town with your own personal touches when making roasted potatoes. A few ideas to get you started include herbs and Parmesan; whole-grain mustard and tarragon; Lyonnaise-style with sautéed onions and parsley; and polenta-crusted curried roast potatoes.
Au Gratin Potatoes
Culinarily speaking, “au gratin” refers to any dish — usually a starch — topped with a crisp coating of buttered breadcrumbs. Common variations include cheese and, occasionally, an egg binder. Au gratin potatoes come from “gratin dauphinoise,” a classic French dish comprising thinly sliced starchy potatoes baked in cream with a touch of garlic and a gratin of Gruyere or Emmentaler.
Homemade au gratin potatoes top anything that comes out of a box. To save a little money, you can substitute cream with half and half or whole milk and substitute any domestic Swiss-style cheese for Gruyere. Use a waxy potato, such as Yukon Gold, in your au gratin potato dish for the best texture.
Familiar to anyone who frequents themed restaurants and sports bars, potato skins are an indelible part of American food culture. Typically topped with standards like cheddar, sour cream and chives, homemade potato skins cost significantly less than restaurant potato skins. And even better, you can repurpose the flesh.
Reserve the flesh scooped out of the potatoes after you bake them in an airtight container for up to five days. Use it to make dumplings, to thicken rustic soups or to make “baked” mashed potatoes by adding a little cream and butter.
Scalloped potatoes come in many forms. Potatoes au gratin, crispy potato roast and pommes Anna — a crunchy-topped French classic — all use scalloped potatoes as a main ingredient.
The American version of scalloped potatoes closely resembles au gratin potatoes, and, in most recipes, you won’t find much of a difference. But you have a lot of room to play with scalloped potatoes, so experiment with different cheeses and steep the milk or cream with whole spices to add layers of flavor.
Boiled Potato Dishes
A boiled potato might seem like the world’s most boring and least flavorful side dish. But don’t let this humble spud fool you. With just a few tweaks, boiled potatoes can be transformed into mouthwatering sides or even meals.
Pierogies have deep roots in Eastern Europe. Like latkes, you’ll find a version of pierogies in most of the Slavic countries and Russia, but Poles lay claim to the pierogi as their national dish, with origins dating to the 13th century B.C.
Pierogies should simmer until the filling — which can include just about any quick-cooking ingredient — reaches serving temperature. Next time you make pierogies, improve the flavor and texture by caramelizing them with a little olive oil in a saute pan after simmering.
Just about every hearty, rustic soup uses potatoes for volume, flavor retention and the thickening ability of their starch. Although potatoes play a supporting role in many soups, potatoes take the lead role in soups like vichyssoise and ajiaco.
Potato-based soup takes readily to most proteins and vegetables. You can make your own version of potato soup by using a homemade, cream of potato soup base and adding cooked secondary ingredients to it, such as crab, corn, pancetta, broccoli rabe and sautéed kale. For extra crunch and flavor, top your soup with crusty bread.
Boiled potatoes serve as the main ingredient for many dishes, both savory and sweet. You can make a quality boiled potato dish with Russet Burbanks, but for a creamy texture, go with a waxy variety, such as red-skinned, young potatoes and fingerlings.
Dishes like gnocchi, pomme aligot and aloo pie use boiled potatoes as a main ingredient, but perhaps the most classic boiled potato dish is pommes de terre nouvelle au beurre, which is made with boiled new potatoes slathered with French butter and garnished with roughly chopped parsley and flaky sea salt.
Italy’s most beloved dumpling, gnocchi can be made from a variety of base ingredients, including flour, cornmeal, semolina, bread, chestnut flour, ricotta or vegetables.
Most classic gnocchi recipes call for the flesh of baked potatoes — the drier texture gives the finished dish a lighter, fluffier consistency. But if you have a few leftover boiled potatoes, dry them out in a warm oven and make gnocchi with them.
Potato salad is a beloved side dish synonymous with warm-weather picnics and summer cookouts.
When making potato salad, you should always use high-quality, thin-skinned waxy potatoes, such as red finn, fingerling or new potatoes. These classifications of potatoes deliver a pleasant “toothiness” and firmness that holds up well to both light sauces, such as vinaigrettes and heavier mayonnaise-based sauces.
From classic American mash with milk and butter to the Irish heritage dish colcannon with Irish butter and kale, a good dish of mashed potatoes is a perfect side for almost any meal. With the addition of a few secondary ingredients, mashed potatoes can be a well-rounded main dish, too.
Shepherd’s pie, for example, is perhaps the most well-known mashed potato main dish; however, there are many others, including the classic French dish aligot, which is made with mashed potatoes, melted Raclette and heavy cream.
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