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Magic Ingredient: Potatoes

Here a spud, there a spud—what to do with all those varieties.

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If there were an award for the world’s most versatile vegetable, the potato would win hands down. When sliced and fried, it is the epitome of fast food, but in the hands of a chef like world-famous Daniel Boulud, it provides the crisp, salty notes that have made his potato-encrusted black bass legendary. What other vegetable is so comfortable being dressed up and down?

Mild in flavor, potatoes can be sliced, diced, roasted, mashed, baked, boiled, or fried. Before you begin cooking, however, it’s important to know what kind of potato you’re working with. Russets, the common white-fleshed potatoes with thick brown skin, are high in starch, making them good candidates for baking and mashing. Round whites and round reds have a lower starch content and waxier flesh, rendering them ideal for boiling and slicing for potato salad or scalloped potatoes. Long whites are a good middle ground, performing well when boiled, baked, or fried.

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At Zweck’s Fresh Vegetables & Flowers in Longmont, Connie Zweck and her husband, Tom, grow about 90 different vegetable crops, including several potato varieties. Her favorite spud? The Yukon gold, a yellow-fleshed tuber that Zweck prefers quickly steamed, coated with a thin layer of olive oil, and cooked on a hot grill until golden brown.

RECIPE: Provençal Potato Salad (Serves 4)

Look for fingerlings, aka baby long white potatoes, or purple Peruvians when preparing this potato salad.

Preheat oven to 450°. Prick potatoes with a fork, then place potatoes, garlic, and thyme in a roasting pan. Cover and bake for 45 minutes or until done. Let cool, then refrigerate at least 2 hours. Halve potatoes lengthwise and place in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, olives, parsley, salt, and pepper and toss gently. In a small bowl, mix mustard, vinegar, capers, and shallot, then whisk in oil. Sprinkle dressing over salad and mix thoroughly. Add more salt and pepper if necessary and serve.

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