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The Humble Potato

Published on July 13 2020

How would we manage to round out a meal without the humble potato? Seriously though, potatoes don’t get enough credit for how versatile they are not to mention that this root vegetable is grown in over 200 varieties. That’s a lot of shapes and sizes and colours for a single vegetable that can be sliced, diced, fried and sautéed. We can serve them for supper, snacks or for breakfast. 

French fries gave the humble potato a bad rap in the health industry but we want to take back the potato’s power and restore pride and pleasure in this great source of vitamins C and B6, potassium, iron, manganese, niacin and phosphorus.

The quick and dirty on 3 popular grocery store varieties; high starch, medium starch and low starch.

The High-Starch Russet Potato    

White-fleshed or yellow, the Russet, also known as Idaho features a rough, ruddy skin and offers a mild flavour. It’s low in moisture and high in starch making this potato’s texture ideal for recipes in which lightness is the goal. Russets don't have to cook for long or be mashed too thoroughly to form a smooth consistency. 

Ideal for: 

  • The classic baked potato 

  • Fluffy mashed potatoes

  • Homemade gnocchi 

Speaking of potato gnocchi, let’s make some!

Potato Gnocchi

Potato Gnocchi


  • 2 lbs whole baking potatoes

  • 2 beaten egg yolks

  • 1 1/2 cups flour

  • Pinch of salt

  • Your favorite pasta sauce (for example, this basic, delicious tomato sauce)


  1. Bake the potatoes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spear the potatoes with fork tines and bake the potatoes in their skins until tender, about an hour. Let cool on a rack, cutting them open to help cool and let more moisture escape.

  2. Mash and fluff potatoes: Scoop out the potatoes from their skins. Mash and fluff them up with a fork into a large bowl. It is best to work with the potatoes when they are still warm. 

  3. Add flour, egg, salt, mix into a ball of dough:  Do not over-mix.

  4. Roll pieces of dough into long cylinders: Prepare a work area and dust it with flour. Take the dough, a piece at a time, and roll it out gently with your hands until you have rolls about 3/4 inch in diameter. Keep a light touch while you are rolling the dough! 

  5. Cut into pieces, and form indentations: Cut the tubes of dough into pieces about an inch long. Using either the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press against a piece of the dough and roll it slightly to form an indentation (good for catching the sauce).

  6. As you make the gnocchi place them on a flat baking pan lightly dusted with flour or lined.

  7. Drop gnocchi into simmering water: Gently place the gnocchi, a few at a time, into the water. As soon as the gnocchi rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon shaking off excess water.

  8. Place the gnocchi on a warm serving dish. Cook the remaining gnocchi the same way.

Medium-Starch (All-Purpose) Potatoes

The smooth-skinned, yellow-fleshed Yukon Gold was bred in Canada by crossing a North American white potato with a wild South American yellow one. It splits the difference between the dry and denser varieties. These are the ones to go with if you want crispy roast potatoes with tender, flavourful interiors, ridiculously rich and creamy mashed potatoes; or extra-silky pommes aligot, the Alpine cheese-laced mashed-potato dish.

The trick to achieving creaminess while avoiding glueyness is to release some of the starch, but not too much. If you’ve ever processed a potato and wondered why it turned into a pasty gooey mess, it was probably a Yukon gold. 

Perfect all the time Crispy Yukon gold Roasted Potatoes

Roast Potatoes

These are the perfect companion for your next barbecue:


  • 3 lbs potatoes scrubbed, dried and cut into 1 inch cubes with the skin on (I prefer gold potatoes)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons salt 

  • 1 teaspoon pepper

If desired, mix up the flavour by adding garlic powder or adding woodsy herbs such as rosemary or thyme.


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees for at least 10 minutes with a heavy duty baking sheet inside so it gets nice and hot.

  2. Toss the potatoes together with olive oil, salt, pepper and other herbs if adding. Line a hot baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the potatoes in an even layer. You should hear them sizzling right away.

  3. Roast your potatoes in the top third of your oven for 45 minutes, tossing halfway through.

  4. Serve immediately. 

Low-Starch (Waxy) Potatoes

“New potatoes" are harvested while the potato plant leaves are still green and regardless of the variety, new potatoes have thin, delicate skin and moist, sweet flesh. These are used interchangeably with red potatoes. 

The waxy, creamy Red Bliss potato boasts a low starch content means it won’t crumble or leach starches. They're also a good substitute for new potatoes when you can't find those in the market. 

One of the advantages of the smaller new potatoes is their great skin-to-flesh ratio, which is nice for home fries. And, because the skins are so thin, you can bake them without peeling them, which makes them a good candidate for salads, like a classic Niçoise salad and casseroles.

Speaking of casseroles, here’s one to try for your next one-dish meal:  

Au Gratin Potatoes

Au Gratin Potatoes

Potatoes Au Gratin are a dinnertime staple around here! Tender potato and onion slices smothered in a quick cheesy sauce and baked until golden.


  • 2.5 lbs new potatoes or red potatoes

  • 1 onion

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 tablespoons flour

  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

  • 2 cups milk

  • 1 cup cheddar cheese

  • 1/2 cup gruyere cheese

  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Wash potatoes and slice into 1/8' thin slices. Slice the onion as thin as possible.

  3. Layer potatoes and onions in little stacks. Place stacks upright in a greased casserole dish.

  4. Melt butter & flour in a sauce pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add seasonings and milk. Whisk over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses until melted.

  5. Spoon cheese sauce over potatoes. Cover with foil (sprayed with cooking spray) and bake for 60 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned and potatoes are cooked.

Storing Potatoes 101

One mistake a lot of people make when storing potatoes is putting them in airtight containers or plastic bags, the way you might for other foods and vegetables. Potatoes need circulating oxygen to avoid sprouting and rot.

Potatoes are finicky. They like air circulating. They like cool dark places. And they really do well when stored in their natural state. 

Farmers will tell you to store your spuds in old-fashioned burlap bags because burlap allows air flow and this air flow prevents the potatoes from rotting. Burlap sacks have been effectively used for centuries to keep potatoes fresh and free from mold, lasting way longer than any other storage method. if they don’t have burlap, use paper bags with holes poked into them.


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