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What's Cooking?: The Humble Potato

The potato is one of the healthiest and most versatile vegetables we have.  Originating in South America, it was introduced to Europe in the early 16th century by Spanish explorers.   A good source of vitamin C, it was once used to prevent scurvy on the Spanish ships.  It is a member of the nightshade family along with peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes.  Because of this relationship, potatoes were slow to rise in popularity because they were considered to be poisonous.  Some even believed them to cause leprosy. Well, the simple potato has come a long way from these misconceptions.

By itself the potato seems very plain but with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a pat of butter, it is transformed to a favorite comfort food.   Sometimes the best is the simplest.  Yet there are so many ways to raise the humble potato into an elegant dish to become the star of the meal.  One such dish is scalloped hasselback potatoes.  Quite a few patrons have come into the library seeking this recipe which was referenced by Ree Drummond in her TV food show, The Pioneer Woman.   After some research, this recipe is found to belong to Shelbi Keith from a website that Ree Drummond created named Tasty Kitchen.  This luscious dish has the potato sliced to fan out, then filled in between each slice with butter and pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano.   After the potato is baked, cream is dribbled into the slices and finally topped off with shredded cheddar cheese to be baked again so all these glorious cheeses are melted.  Oh my!  Jacques Pepin uses multiple techniques to make the delicate pommes soufflées which are very thinly sliced potatoes that are doubled fried at two different temperatures to puff up like balloons.   It’s amazing how these unique crisp potato puffs are created!  How’s that for a sophisticated twist on French fries?   There are countless ideas and recipes for using potatoes so try something new to change a mundane meal to fun and exciting.

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/10/if-you-love-step-by-step-recipes/

http://tastykitchen.com/blog/2011/10/scalloped-hasselback-potatoes/

http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Pommes-Soufflees

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