Purified potato comes out, fit for a king


The potato is a pariah no more. With its nutritional ancestry scrubbed clean, or at least cleaner, of some lowly connections, it has been allowed to join the fold. And I can empathize with it; in my erstwhile home on the Indian subcontinent, I have seen the injustice of low-caste ostracization. Welcome back potato, a veggie I have always loved.

Potatoes were given a bad rap for the company we forced it to keep – deep-fried in french fries, loaded with butter and cream in the mashed mode, and all those “delicious” but “disreputable” characters that compromised the good name of the spuds – and our good health.

When these lowly influences were driven out, the cleansed potatoes came out as fit company for us to keep. However, in India no amount of cleansing and purging can make a low-caste “Shudra” fit for the company of a high-born Brahmin, despite all the efforts of the people of goodwill, as well as the government.

In the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent – which now comprises India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – potatoes are an essential ingredient in a variety of curried and other dishes, most of them requiring just a minimum amount of fat.

Shorn of bad fat and cream, potatoes have a lot of nutrients, including potassium, vitamins C and B6 and iron, as well as a lot of phytonutrients. It is also naturally low in sodium and fat. Using them with their skin on is a healthier option, since it not only enhances the nutrients but adds much-needed fibers.

Here is a recipe for a “healthier” form of french fries my wife Kaisari makes, balancing taste and nutrition. She makes the “coins” with white potatoes, but you can easily sub with rounds of the more nutritious sweet potatoes.

WHITE (OR SWEET) POTATO COINS

3 medium-size unblemished white potatoes, preferably longish

3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Flavoring of your choice

1. Wash the potatoes well, scrubbing with a vegetable brush, to remove the dirt and possible surface contaminant, including any pesticide. You will be eating the skins since they hold a lot of nutrients and fibers. Pat dry with a paper towel, and prick the surface at several points with a fork.

2. We prefer to cook them in a microwave oven, about two-third way through, since the slices will later be sauteed in a skillet. You can cook them in a regular or a large toaster oven, but that is time- and power-consuming. Boiling leaves them water-logged.

3. To cook, place the prepared spuds on a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels. How long to cook depends on the wattage of your microwave, which is commonly around 1,000 watts. We have sensor cooking; when the final finish time comes up on the message window after 2-3 minutes, we reduce set time on the touch pad by several minutes, or open the door to stop cooking and cancel the remaining time. It is better to undercook than over; it makes slicing easier and more uniform.

4. Allow the potatoes to cool a few minutes, loosely wrapped in a kitchen towel. On a board, slice the potatoes into “coins” about one-third to half-inch thick, using a sharp knife.

5. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Placing the slices in a single layer, saute them until the coins are crisp on the outside but still tender on the inside, turning a couple of times. Last time we cooked, my wife seasoned the potato slices with McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning mix, sprinkling it toward the end of the cooking time. She also seasoned the slices lightly with a touch of paprika.

The only downside to the seasoning mix is that it is a bit too salty. If you are on a salt-restricted diet, devise your own seasoning – freshly ground pepper, paprika, finely chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme, or bottled Italian spice. The possibilities are endless.

The formula will work equally well for white as well as sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes, of course, are traditionally paired with cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of brown sugar. The choice is yours.



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