Gourmet Galley: Potatoes come in a variety of colors, shapes and flavors

Have you noticed the new colors, shapes and sizes of potatoes lately?

I had an education just looking at the new potatoes I wanted to write about. “New” potatoes are not a specific variety. They may be one of several varieties that are harvested while they’re still immature. Their shape and color are determined by the variety of the potato. Most of those are planted in the winter to be ready in spring or early summer. They’re referred to as earlies, new, fingerlings, creamers or baby potatoes. I even bought some “minis” that I thought could be a great party food.

The young, or immature, potatoes are best boiled, baked or pan roasted. At this early stage, they’re sweeter tasting because the sugar has not yet converted to starch. The texture is creamy and smooth, and they hold their shape during cooking. That’s why they’re good for roasting, potato salads or boiling. Since the skins on new potatoes are thin, you don’t have to peel them.

I tested using the most popular white and red new potatoes. For garnish, I snipped just the very tops of a few herbs I have growing in a big pot. I was being conservative with my cutting because I had just planted the herbs in my big clay pot.

Most of us grew up boiling new potatoes with salt and pepper and adding butter and parsley right before serving. That’s still a favorite for many. Ina Garten, the “Barefoot Contessa” author and food TV personality, has taught us to simply roast vegetables at high heat with olive oil and herbs to bring out their best flavor. Either method is fine when it comes to cooking potatoes.

Keep it simple, but try some of the newer potatoes out there. Since the larger new potatoes are firm and have a tendency to remain firm, I sometimes parboil them first, then roast them in a hot oven. This allows them to crisp a little on the outside but remain soft on the inside. These recipes are meant to be flexible. Use your judgment as far as time and amount of seasoning required.

Corinne Cook is a columnist for The Advocate. Reach her at food@theadvocate.com.