Potatoes offer a variety of possibilities

Adirenne Freeman Originally Published March 7, 2013 at 11:56 a.m.
Updated March 7, 2013 at 11:56 a.m.
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Adrienne Freeman

Potatoes come in all shapes, sizes and colors, yet all aren’t interchangeable. The tastes are mostly the same and can fit nicely into any menu; just the preparation techniques vary.

In this world of vegan, gluten-free, low-carb obsession, sometimes it is easy to miss what is right before our eyes. Potatoes have always been a staple, and they haven’t changed, but preparation, presentations and options have expanded.

There is a rainbow of variety in potatoes — purple, white, red, new, russet, Idaho and Yukon gold — but they aren’t always interchangeable. Mealy, starchy potatoes such as white, russet and Idaho are good for baking, roasting, potato skins and casseroles. Waxy potatoes such as red and new varieties don’t fall apart when cooked, so they are great for potato salad, appetizers and soups.

Potatoes can be a vessel for anything. The scooped-out shells can be refilled with cheesy toppings, meats or healthy vegetables. The crisped skins are a perfect serving dish and can be eaten as well.

The favorite comfort food for adults and kids alike? Mashed potatoes. Enough said.

Potatoes, which sometimes get a bad rap, are abundant and available, and each adult eats approximately 140 pounds of potatoes per year.

Potatoes are a complex carbohydrate, needed for energy, and they provide significant amounts of potassium and vitamin C. One medium-size skin-on potato contains just 110 calories per serving, has more potassium (620 grams) than a banana, provides almost half the daily value of vitamin C (45 percent) and contains no fat, sodium or cholesterol. One medium-sized potato (5.3 ounces) counts as 1 cup of starchy vegetables (www.myplate.gov)

Options abound — fried, baked, roasted, boiled, in salads or side dishes. Fancy or without frills, potatoes fit nicely into any menu.

So, whether you want a simple or simply fantastic presentation, there is a potato dish for you. One recipe below, Sea Bass in Paupiette, meaning fish wrapped in potato, is a classic French preparation that has crisp potato slices layered to resemble scales covering the tender fish below.

Traditionally served with a red-wine sauce, the dish was the signature offering of New York City’s famed restaurant Le Cirque, an exclusive gourmet landmark established in 1974.

When acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud of restaurant, writing and television fame took over the storied building that Le Cirque occupied before relocating, he adopted the dish as a tribute on his menu at the three-star Michelin eatery Daniel, wowing and wooing diners since 1998.

Sea Bass in Paupiette

(Adapted from Daniel Boulud, chef, Cooking With Daniel Boulud)

Ingredients:

1 bottle Barolo wine (for sauce, any other red wine suitable for cooking)

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon heavy cream

2 extra-large baking potatoes, peeled

4 tablespoons melted, clarified butter

Salt to taste

4 5-ounce sea-bass fillets (or other firm fish of your liking, such as cod, black bass, even salmon)

2 leeks, washed and trimmed, white and tender green parts cut into 3-inch-long julienne strips

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup chilled butter, unsalted and cut into chunks — for finishing sauce

Pinch of sugar

Minced chives for garnish

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, shallots and thyme, and simmer, uncovered, until the wine is almost evaporated, about 45 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream, and set aside.

Using a mandoline, cut the potatoes lengthwise into paper-thin slices. Place the slices in a large bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter, and season lightly with salt so the potatoes don’t turn brown. Season the fish fillets with salt and shape them, trimming and tucking as necessary to form compact rectangles.

On a square of baking parchment or wax paper, overlap the narrow ends of 2 potato slices by 1 inch. Lay 2 more slices down in the same manner, overlapping the sides of the first 2 by 1/2 inch. Repeat until you have 4 rows of slices. Place each fillet lengthwise across a row of potatoes. Wrap the potato slices around the fillets, using the parchment paper to help lift the slices. Refrigerate.

In a small saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the clarified butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Season the leeks with salt and pepper, and set aside to keep warm.

Over a low flame, bring the reduced wine and cream to a simmer and whisk in the butter chunks, 1 at a time. Remove from heat, season with salt, pepper and the sugar, and strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve. Return the sauce to the pan, and set aside to keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a large nonstick skillet on top of the stove over high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of clarified butter and the wrapped fish fillets, seam sides down. Saute, turning once, until the potatoes are crisp and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Check the fish for doneness, and transfer the skillet to the oven if the fish needs to cook longer. Serve the fish on a bed of leeks with the sauce spooned around. Garnish with chives.

CHEESY HASH-BROWN CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter

1 small yellow onion, chopped

4 cups frozen shredded hash browns

8 cups cubed French or Italian bread, crusts removed

1 pound bulk sausage: mild, hot or sage; or 1 pound diced cooked ham

2 cups (1/2 pound) grated Swiss cheese

2 cups (1/2 pound) grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 1/4 cups whole milk

6 large eggs and 2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Directions:

Spray or lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish. Melt butter in a large frying pan, and sauté onion over medium-low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the hash browns and break apart, sautéing potatoes 5 more minutes until soft. Place the bread cubes in the bottom of the casserole. Spread onion and potato mixture equally over bread.

In the same skillet, sauté the sausage until cooked through, breaking up any large pieces. (If using the ham, it doesn’t need to be cooked and can be spread over the potatoes.) Using a slotted spoon, distribute sausage evenly over potatoes. Spread the grated cheeses equally over the sausage.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mustard until well mixed. Pour over the cheese. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight or at least 8 hours.

Remove the casserole 30 minutes before baking. Bake uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

RED, WHITE AND BLUE POTATO SALAD

Bagged, assorted fingerling potatoes are showing up in supermarkets everywhere. They are perfect for this salad.

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 cup small red-skinned

potatoes, scrubbed and cubed

1 cup small white-skinned

potatoes, scrubbed and cubed

1 cup small blue-skinned

potatoes, scrubbed and cubed

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 ribs celery, sliced

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced

2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin

2 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Dressing

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise (any good-quality mayo will do)

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Put smashed garlic and sliced potatoes in large saucepan and cover with cold water by about 1 inch. Add the salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and simmer uncovered about 5 minutes. The potatoes should be soft, but not mushy.

While the potatoes are cooking, mix all dressing ingredients in medium-size bowl.

Transfer warm potatoes to bowl with dressing. Fold dressing over potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with green onions and bacon pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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