To the cook, part of the appeal of potatoes is their versatility. You can roast, fry, boil, grill or stew them. They might show up for breakfast as hash browns or home fries, for lunch in a savory soup and for dinner as a creamy side dish. For the consumer, part of the appeal of potatoes is their comfort food status. Potatoes are often associated with hearty home cooking, which we tend to turn to in the fall.
This fall in our household, we’ve got homegrown potatoes to enjoy. My six-year-old and I planted a few pounds of Yukon Gold seed potatoes in one our of our garden beds this spring. The rabbits didn’t bother them. We had hoped the deer wouldn’t either, but as it turns out, our neighborhood deer apparently found the potato blossoms to be delectable. I was afraid we wouldn’t have anything to harvest at all, but some potatoes did grow – three or so per plant. We planted about 25 plants, though, so we have gotten several meals out of our gardening efforts.
For our first meal of fresh potatoes, I washed, boiled and then mashed some with a bit of butter, a splash of milk and chopped chives. Those potatoes went from garden to table within an hour, and tasted that fresh. Next I tried Smitten Kitchen’s potato pizza recipe for the first time and found the thin crust laden with thinly sliced potatoes to be surprisingly tasty, thanks in part to the rosemary sprinkled on top.
It’s prime time for potatoes at farmer’s markets, and it is also easy to find locally grown potatoes at grocery stores this time of year because Minnesota ranks sixth in the nation for potato production, according to the University of Minnesota Extension office. In your supermarket, look for Red River Valley potatoes, known for their deep red color and robust flavor, which comes from growing in the heavy black soil near Minnesota’s western border.
While you’re at it, it’s okay to stock up. Properly stored – in a cool dry place away from light – potatoes will keep for at least six months. You don’t want to put them in the fridge because when they are that cool, the starch in the potatoes begins converting to sugar, which impacts the flavor.
Then it’s time to get cooking… Try this potato soup if you’re interested in a garlicky twist on the classic.
Baked Potato Soup
4 – 5 medium russet potatoes
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup 2% milk
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons minced garlic chives
Scrub potatoes and bake in 400 degree oven for about 1 hour or until completely cooked. Place garlic in small pan or casserole dish and drizzle with olive oil. Stir to ensure each clove is coated in oil. Place lid on casserole dish and roast garlic while the potatoes are baking, for approximately 25 minutes or until soft, fragrant and lightly golden on the bottom.
Melt butter in soup pot and sauté onion and celery until tender. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about ten minutes, until onion and celery are completely cooked. Peel and cube baked potatoes. Add 4½ cups of baked potato cubes to the soup along with the roasted garlic. Simmer five to ten minutes more. Remove from heat and puree soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt. If the soup seems too thick, add additional stock or milk to reach desired consistency, reheating if needed. Ladle into bowls and garnish with pepper and garlic chives.
By Anita Dualeh