You’ve got to hand it to the Peruvians; they really had something going on back in the day.
Not only did they have what is now considered one of the most advanced civilizations in the ancient world in the pre-Columbian Inca site of Machu Picchu, but the southern region of Peru also lays claim to being the ancestral home of the potato.
Had the Incas hung around a little longer, it’s no doubt they would have invented the French fry and franchised it.
Potatoes Were HOT!
Unfortunately for the Incas, the Spanish came along and stole their idea (and pretty much everything else), taking this delicious starchy tuber back to Spain where it was subsequently transported by European mariners around the globe.
It still remains an essential crop in Europe (especially eastern and central Europe), where per capita production is still the highest in the world. However, the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. China is now the world’s largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China. They’ve become an integral part of much of the world’s cuisine!
Let’s just say the phrase, “Would you like fries with that?,” has contributed to an annual average consumption of about 75 lbs. of potatoes per person on the planet.
That’s a lot of spuds.
Today, potatoes are the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat and maize (corn). And although there are reportedly close to five thousand varieties of potatoes worldwide, the overall consumption of potatoes is limited to a very small fraction of that number.
Speaking of spuds, did you know that the word “spud” actually comes from the tool used to dig the soil when planting the potato and not the potato itself? And the English word “potato” actually originated from a compound of two Spanish words for the sweet potato and not the common potatoes we know today? The history books say they confused the two plants for one another. Hmmm…
And although there’s NO confusion today, you might be overwhelmed by the variety of ways potatoes are cooked and enjoyed (potato chips, pancakes, pies, breads, soups, casseroles, dumplings, stuffed, fried, baked, steamed, broiled, sautéed, stir-fried, mashed and dozens more). The potato is not only one of the world’s most versatile vegetables, but also one that’s universally enjoyed.
And now, on to some of my favorite recipes:
Cajun Roasted Potato Spears
Simple and bold, these spicy wedges have just the right amount of zing and just the right amount of delicious potato flavor. They make a good choice for thick, juicy steaks!
- 4 Each Idaho potatoes, medium large
- 1 Stick Melted salted butter
- ½ Cup Nino’s Cajun Blackening Seasoning
- As Desired Salt
- Wash potatoes (leaving skin on), pat dry and then cut into 1/6th lengthwise wedges.
- Brush each wedge with melted butter, then sprinkle liberally with Nino’s Cajun Seasoning.
- Place each wedge (1” apart from one another) on a non-stick baking sheet.
- Roast in a 375 F oven for approximately 35 to 40 minutes or until potato wedges are a dark golden brown and cooked through.
- Salt as desired and serve hot.
This is one of the most elegant and sophisticated potato dishes in the classic French repertoire. They do take some time to prepare but the results are well worth it. What you’ll experience in the end are potatoes that are light, with a crispy crust on the outside, and airy, delicate and creamy on the inside–definitely a dish your family will want you to make again!
The recipe is prepared in 2 parts. First you make the Duchesse Potatoes, then the Pate a Choux. Stir both together and then fry to make Potato Lorette.
For Duchesse Potatoes
- 1 lb. Idaho potatoes, peeled & diced 2”
- 1 Tbsp Butter
- 1 Extra-large egg
- 1 Egg yolk
- 1 ¼ Tsp Salt
- 1/8 Tsp Black pepper, ground
For Pâte à Choux
- ½ Cup Water
- 1 Tbsp Butter
- ½ Tsp Salt
- 1/8 Tsp Black pepper
- 1/8 Tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)
- ½ Cup All-purpose Flour
- 2 Extra-large eggs
About 4 Cups Vegetable oil
To make the Duchesse Potatoes:
- Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Cover potatoes with cold salted water by 1 inch in a 2-quart pot, then simmer, uncovered, until tender–about 15 minutes.
- Drain potatoes in a colander and return to pot. Dry potatoes by shaking pot over low heat until all moisture is evaporated and a film begins to appear on bottom of pot, about 2 minutes.
- Force potatoes through ricer or mash VERY well into a bowl.
- Add butter, whole egg and yolk, salt, and pepper, and stir with a wooden spoon until very smooth. Keep potato mixture warm and covered, and move on to the next step, the Pâte a Choux.
To make the Pâte à Choux:
- Bring water, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over high heat, then reduce heat to moderate.
- Add flour all at once, and stir briskly with a wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from side of pan–1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool about 1 minute.
- Add eggs 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition.
- Add the Duchesse Potato mixture and stir until combined well.
To form and fry the potatoes:
- Heat 2 inches of oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until thermometer registers 350 F to 360 F.
- With 2 teaspoons, fashion approximately a 1” diameter ball of potato mixture in the well of one spoon, using the second spoon to shape and then scrape the potato mixture into the hot oil. Be careful not to splash.
- Quickly repeat with additional mixture until you’ve made 6 to 8 at a time.
- Fry, turning potatoes over occasionally until all sides are well browned and crisp.
- Remove Lorette Potatoes from the hot oil with a slotted spoon or skimmer, and allow them to rest on absorbent paper towels while finishing the remaining potatoes.
- Salt and serve warm.
What is your favorite way to cook and eat potatoes? Tell us in the comments below!