<b>DINING OUT | </b>By Mina Williams Herald writer
Atkins may challenge them, but it’s hard to keep a starchy tuber underground for long. Potatoes, after all, are the staple that can be spectacular.
There are crispy edged potato pancakes, creamy scalloped potatoes, and crisp and crunchy potato chips. Whether fried, roasted, steamed, mashed or sautéed, potatoes are a family favorite.
America’s beloved comfort food is a Peruvian native, brought to Europe by Spaniards in 1537 after conquering the Inca Empire.
Once on the European continent the clever potato, which rests underground, found favor with peasants because they were less pillaged by marauding armies than above-ground grain stores.
Today there are hundreds of varieties in different sizes, shapes, colors, starch content and flavors.
Spud varieties range from the brown earthy Russets to the spring fresh red skinned new, plus sweet potatoes and yams. Add in the wild varieties of fingerlings (Russian Banana, Purple Peruvian and Rose Finn Apple) and you know why tubers are tops.
All the varieties have coaxed creativity in the kitchen. Fried, roasted, steamed, mashed, sautéed or crisped into chips, there is a potato preparation for just about everyone.
There have to be 50 ways to serve spuds mashed. And more than 50 ways to stuff bakers with butter, sour cream and chives; or broccoli and cheddar cheese with bacon. Plus every family has their particular secret potato salad recipe.
The variety of kinds and flavors along with the numerous preparation options punctuate how fond Americans are of potatoes. Each of us eats 140 pounds per year, according to the Potato Board.
Potatoes are such a part of society’s fabric that they have leapt through the kitchen door into the toy realm as the creative Mr. Potato Head or as ammunition for a spud gun.
While Idaho is dubbed the potato state, it actually is behind Washington. The evergreen state ranks first in the nation in per-acre production of potatoes. In 2011 Washington growers raised 9.8 billion pounds of potatoes.
What is your favorite potato dish and where do you find it?
Right before Easter, Central Market was handing out samples of a scalloped potato dish with blue cheese. I grabbed the recipe, bought all the ingredients, made the dish and wowed my family.
Nothing better than a big fluffy baked potato. You can get them everywhere – a fancy steakhouse or Wendy’s.
Scalloped potatoes, using my grandma’s recipe, are on every holiday dinner table. They are the best because of the extra cheese she puts in.
The Keg Steakhouse’s garlic mashed potatoes. It’s comfort food.
My grandma’s scalloped potatoes with cornflakes sprinkled on top.