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Use The Right Potato For The Job

Q:

I’ve noticed that some chefs call for the same size potato for multiple uses, kind of an all-purpose size. They typically call for an Idaho® Russet. As a culinary student I find this confusing… it seems like it would cost more to buy a big potato when you are just going to cut it up.

A:

Good observation. Here is my short summary on what I’d recommend. If the final product or recipe does not require the potato to have a certain length or is going to be cut up, then give some serious thought to what size potato to choose.

For example, I just saw a beautiful recipe for beet pickled eggs with tater cubes, or a potato crouton. In this instance, since they were peeled and cut into one inch cubes, the chef chose a one pound potato, or a 40 count. That means on average, there were forty potatoes in the 50 pound box. In this recipe the potatoes were peeled then cut in half vertically and vacuum sealed in a single layer and cooked for thirty minutes. Then they were cooled and while still hot, shredded and placed in a layer and refrigerated overnight. Finally they were cut into 1 inch squares and fried in oil at 350 degrees F.
So, this potato crouton actually started out as a very very large potato. The chef may have saved some labor time in peeling, but is that offset by then having multiple steps to end up with a shredded layer of potatoes? A less expensive (in a typical year) 80-90 count potato would have worked fine. On the other hand, to really create a “WOW” factor, what if this 40 count one pound potato was made into a giant baked potato or a twice baked?

Below are some recipes calling for a diced potato cut into large chunks. None of these require spending the money on a premium sized potato* for the final dish to be spectacular.

*NOTE: In the Potato Shrimp Clemenceau recipe, the skin was left on to save labor. The Garlic Fried Potatoes Recipe calls for 2 large 12-14 oz. potatoes but an 8-10 ounce is less expensive and would work fine for this application.