NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
August 10, 2000
Ill always remember my "big city" cousins look of total amazement when Mom and I dug some fresh potatoes from our backyard garden. He jumped to the ground as the dirt-covered red balls rolled into view like buried treasures uncovered, and said "Wow, potatoes grow in the ground?". Yes, he was only 10 at the time, but his astonishment that potatoes came from some place other than the grocery store -- or trees or wherever he might have been thinking -- sticks in my memory.
Spuds in some form were served nearly every day in our home. We really looked forward to special occasions that were marked by potato dumplings and lefse made from mashed potatoes. Theres hardly a more versatile vegetable than the potato. Baked, boiled, roasted, fried, mashed and creamed are but a few ways to prepare this nutritious root vegetable. That probably has a lot to do with why its Americans favorite vegetable. Im sure I eat my fair share of the 140 pounds of tators that Americans eat yearly.
Potatoes play a key role in our regions agriculture. Theyve long been a staple in the Red River Valley. Now theyre helping producers diversify in central and western North Dakota as well. I especially look forward to the Barnesville, Minn., Potato Days held the end of August. Not only are there potato dumplings and baked potatoes, but usually youll find potato sausage, potato ice cream, and most decadent, chocolate-covered potato chips. Besides food, there are potato sack races and lots of other events.
The recipe that follows is a nostalgic way to new potatoes. Team the dish with roasted whole chicken, garden peas with pearl onions, and sliced fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.
Oak Hill Potatoes
(Adapted from a recipe appearing in "The Original 1896 Fanny Farmer Cook Book")
Yield: 8 servings
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups warm skim (fat-free) milk
salt and white pepper to taste
4 medium-sized cold boiled new potatoes, skin on
6 hard-cooked eggs
1 cup cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon paprika
Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan and add the flour. Stir the mixture constantly for five minutes and turn heat down to lowest setting so the butter-flour mixture (roux) remains warm. In another saucepan, heat the milk; when hot but not boiling, add the roux and allow the sauce to thicken by letting it simmer for five or 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes and eggs into quarter-inch slices. Arrange alternating layers of potatoes and eggs in 9-inch-square baking pan sprayed with cooking spray. While arranging layers, season with salt and pepper. Pour white sauce over potato-egg layers and sprinkle cracker crumbs evenly over the top of the casserole. Sprinkle the paprika evenly over top. Bake casserole in a 350 F oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until top is nicely browned.
A serving of Oak Hill Potatoes (one-eighth of the recipe) contains about 210 calories and 9 grams of fat. Potatoes are nutrient dense. They contain vitamin C and minerals like potassium. Plus, if you eat the skin, they contain fiber that will help fill you up.
To preserve nutrients, cook them whole in their skins whenever possible. If you decide to peel them, take only a thin layer off because many of the nutrients are found close to the skin. Use as little water as possible. Potatoes also can be steamed by placing a wire rack in the bottom of a saucepan and adding water to just below the level of the rack.
A serving of potatoes according to the Food Guide Pyramid is one-half cup (about 4 ounces) baked, mashed or boiled. Heres a visual tip: a serving of baked potato is about the size of a computer mouse. A serving of plain potatoes contains about 100 calories, virtually no fat and plenty of complex carbohydrates for energy.
When choosing spuds, pick the best one for the job. For baked or mashed potatoes, pick Russets which have a mealy texture. Long Whites and Round Reds are waxy potatoes (because of the type of starch they contain), and theyre best suited for boiling. Round Whites are considered "all purpose."
Potatoes that are exposed to light, whether natural or artificial, may have a greenish appearance. The green parts contain chlorophyll, a natural pigment, and solanine, a chemical that can be toxic in high amounts. Since cooking wont destroy solanine, always trim away the green parts and any sprouts.
Store potatoes in a cool, dark place at a temperature of about 50 F, but not in the refrigerator. Refrigeration can cause potatoes to convert some of their starch to sugar and lead to a sweeter taste and brownish color when cooked.
Always wash potatoes and other fresh produce thoroughly. Potatoes have gathered a few food safety headlines. A recent outbreak in South Dakota linked potato salad to foodborne illness, but dont blame the mayonnaise. Usually the culprits in salad cases are food handlers who havent washed their hands properly before cutting up the salad ingredients. When perishable food is left at improper temperatures, bacteria can grow to levels that could cause illness.
Enjoy some potatoes. Theyre versatile, nutritious and easy to prepare.
Source: Julie Garden-Robinson (701) 231-7187
Editor: Tom Jirik, (701) 231-9629