February is National Potato Lover’s Month

How to make the most out of these versatile and tasty tubers in this cost-conscious time. 

Versatile, affordable and long-lasting, crowd-pleasing potatoes are everything you could ask for in an ingredient. Whether you’re creating savory garlic mashed potatoes, gnocchi, latkes or Asian curry, potatoes work in almost any cuisine, and chefs who may have used rice or other grains as a base in the past now are taking a closer look at them.

Potato Versatility and Profitability

Very few ingredients rank as highly as the humble potato in the categories of affordability, versatility and profitability. “The long shelf life of potatoes also helps reduce waste — especially useful with the cyclical, up-and-down nature of business right now,” says Alan Kahn, vice president of foodservice for the Idaho Potato Commission. 

With the rise of breakfast, brunch and eating local even in the midst of a pandemic chefs are becoming more conscious of ways to fill the plate with flavor and color, while decreasing cost and allowing for cross-utilization of product, according to Chef Jeffrey Quasha, CEC, CCA, ACE, corporate executive R&D chef for Morrison Healthcare in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

Chef Quasha says by simply adding a few waxy, starchy potatoes to their kitchens, chefs have access to crispy garnishes, hashes for breakfast, a seasonal soup option and potato appetizers. The potato is a perfect vehicle for chefs to use to create a masterpiece, he adds. “From goat-cheese-and-chive potato cakes stuffed with smoked salmon, to smoked sweet potatoes and kale drizzled with Shropshire blue cheese, charred balsamic onions and fresh herbs, potatoes are cheese’s best friend,” he says. Even the simplest, four-cheese scalloped potatoes, the Hasselback potato revolution, and potatoes topped and smeared with oozing, bubbling cheese have taken center stage for ages. He adds that one of his favorite potato dishes is mashed potatoes with creamy brie folded in, garnished with crème fraiche and scallions.

Because the past year has resulted in a restaurant takeout and delivery boom, “We’re sending the message that a variety of potato dishes and sides can be profitable, innovative and portable,” Kahn says.

Potato Mashups 

Global fusion cuisine has helped stir up a potato revival over the past few years, according to Chef Quasha. Potatoes, after all, are an inexpensive way to introduce new or unique flavor profiles to consumers. In addition to traditional potato applications, Chef Quasha says he’s noticed potatoes used in a growing number of international menu applications in places such as food halls and food trucks. 

Some examples he points to include poutine combined with bulgogi short ribs and sautéed kimchi, and ethnic potato dishes like potato knishes, Czech dumplings, breakfast hash, and pierogis that feature global flavor profiles and elevated fillers. “My new obsessions are elote fries, Old Bay-dusted handcrafted potato chips, and pickle-brined French fries,” he says. “Most recently, my favorite applications have been classic Indian curries, Japanese curries and dal, made with purple, golden and Red Bliss potatoes.”

Whether you’re creating a comforting cheese-layered gratin, potato-topped pizza Genovese, seasoned potato wedges, or a simple, crisp-skinned baked russet, keeping a bag of potatoes nearby is essential for many quick, inexpensive, impressive and take-out-ready dishes. For recipes, visit WeAreChefs.com.

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