Potatoes: What's not to like?Spuds taste great any way, but mashed ones are the best.
By: Jeff Tiedeman, Grand Forks Herald
I grew up in a meat-and-potatoes household. I assume that’s the case for a lot of people of my generation, as well as those of my parents and grandparents.
Even the younger generations fit that mold to some extent. My grandson, Rakeem, is a perfect example. Although he does eat his share of other foods, meat and potatoes are his preference. He rarely leaves any leftovers on his plate.
These days, I don’t eat nearly as much meat as in my youth. In fact, if I eat meat more than a couple of times during the week, that is an exception.
Potatoes are another story. I couldn’t live without the magnificant tuber. We probably have them as part of at least three meals over the course of a week. Once in a while, we’ll have oven fries, our version of the deep-fried ones you get at fast-food restaurants — sans the oil. Then, there are ones we bake and serve with a little sour cream, ranch dressing or salsa, which is my favorite condiment for this kind of spud. And if we have a small elk or venison roast or a free-range Hutterite chicken, the carrots and onion always are joined by four or five nice potatoes in the roaster or Dutch oven.
And in the early summer, we always have a couple of meals that feature new potatoes that are steamed along with some fresh beans and peas. They then are topped with a béchamel or white sauce. I could make a whole meal out of this.
But probably my favorite way to fix potatoes is to mash them. They’ve been my favorite ever since I was a kid. They were always served when we got together at my grandparents house for the annual Thanksgiving dinner. After all, what’s turkey and dressing without mashed potatoes?
And I still can almost taste the ones my mom made that nearly always were served with some sort of gravy — usually at least two or three times weekly. The ones she made with drippings from roasts (both beef and pork), chicken, turkey and even chops (milk-based) make my mouth water when I think about them. (She even made gravy with the meatloaf juices.)
I didn’t need gravy, though, to enjoy mashed potatoes then. They were great, of course, with just a pat or two of butter. (Everything’s better with butter!) That more than likely was the case if we had fish (usually it was northern pike), when we were told if a bone ever became stuck in our throats (you never can get all the bones out of a northern fillet) that the mashed potatoes would work them free and clear the passage.
I recently dug the potatoes from my garden. And it was fortunate I did because it rained the next day. It’s always easier to dig potatoes when it’s dry. Just ask any farmer. It’s no fun doing it in the mud.
My harvest of two short rows yielded a couple of 5-gallon pails of potatoes. Most of the red Pontiacs were medium-sized, although there were a few large ones and a few small ones.
The Pontiac seed potatoes that I planted were given to me this past spring by Roger Peterson, Grand Forks. In the past, I’ve sown Norlands and some russets — with moderate success. But I was more than satisfied with the Pontiac variety (also know as Dakota Chief), which is known to do extremely well in heavy soils like we have in the Red River Valley and are an excellent keeper. What I also like about the Pontiacs is that they are thin-skinned and have very shallow eyes.
But what’s really sold me on them is that they are a top-notch mashing potato.
I could tell that both times we fixed them recently — with mashed rutabagas and fried cabbatge.
But that’s another story.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.