Hot potato: All about the spuds

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At Brookville, a loaded potato gets gourmet fixins'. Photo: John Robinson At Brookville, a loaded potato gets gourmet fixins'. Photo: John Robinson

Potatoes don’t get much starring glory in the culinary world. Mashed, roasted, hashed, caked, or baked, the humble spud is usually the sideshow of the plate. Versatility’s a virtue, though, and these dishes raise the lowly tuber to holy heights.

At Brookville Restaurant, the loaded baked potato goes gourmet: crinkly, roasted fingerlings get topped with bacon, chives, gouda cheese, and a fried egg (above), if you so choose (and we so do).

Few things comfort more than a creamy potato soup and Revolutionary Soup’s potato leek (with a roll for dipping) is as cozying as a pair of fuzzy slippers.

Vegetarians won’t go hungry at Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar, where braised root vegetables and Brussels sprouts come alongside a crispy potato rösti (a pancake made from grated spuds) with a mustard beurre blanc.

The Ivy Inn’s grilled quail is glazed with sweet potato bbq sauce then perched atop a sweet and spicy “hash” of sweet potatoes (browned in bacon fat!), heirloom peppers, pumpkin seeds, and bacon.

At The Local, two potatoes share the plate with Double H Farm’s grilled, chile-rubbed Berkshire pork chop—the shoestring sweet potatoes stay crunchy while the creamy mashed potatoes catch every smidgen of the chipotle adobo gravy.

Sea scallops baked amidst whipped purple potatoes get gilded with lobster cream and parmesan cheese at Savour, where chef Ed Nafei’s combinations are as eclectic as they are full-flavored.

The steak-and-potatoes set will get a plateful at Duner’s, where grilled hanger steak teams up with pesto, a balsamic reduction, and a bacon-parmesan stuffed baked potato.

One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four
While potatoes vary from blue to garnet and from marble- to noggin-sized, they all fall into one of three categories: starchy, waxy, or all-purpose. Here’s a guide to which are which and how best to cook them up.

Starchy potatoes include Russets and most sweet potatoes. Fluffy and absorbent, they are best for baking and frying. If mashing, don’t overwork them or you’ll end up with glue.

Waxy potatoes include red-skinned and fingerling potatoes. With less starch and a thin skin, these potatoes hold their shape while cooking, lending themselves well to soups, stews, and salads. They are also delicious roasted or scalloped.

All-purpose potatoes include Yukon Gold, blue, and purple potatoes. When in doubt, these are the potatoes to use.

They’re electric
For your next party trick, try lighting a bulb with a potato! Spuds have phosphoric acid which, when pierced with two dissimilar metals, react to create enough voltage to power a very small electrical device.

Super size me
The largest potato ever grown was in England in 1795 and weighed in at a whopping 18 pounds and 4 ounces. In today’s terms, that’s 73 medium-sized fries at Mickey D’s.

Potato not included
Invented by George Lerner in 1949 and first manufactured by Hasbro in 1952, the original Mr. Potato Head was sold as pinnable plastic parts for use on any potato (or other vegetable) until complaints of rotting vegetables led to the addition of a plastic potato body.

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