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From Barbara's Kitchen Cooking potatoes to perfection and when to cook with clay

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Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013 7:25 am

Dear Barbara:  Why can I bake a russet potato in one hour and it is perfectly done, but when I use the same size red potato, it is not done in the same amount of time? — Annie from Lodi

Dear Annie: It is the type of potato you are using. Russet potatoes are great for baking, but not for dishes that are cooked in liquid for longer periods of time. They will fall apart if boiled too long. Russets have very high starch content, and very low moisture content. That is why they crumble apart and are nice and fluffy when you open them.

Your red potato is just the opposite. It has very high moisture content and a very low starch content. This creates a much firmer potato, which is better for cooking in liquids and holds its shape. They are fine for roasting, but because it is denser, it takes a little longer to cook. That type of potato is referred to as being a “waxy” potato.

I have read that the Yukon Gold potato is the best “all purpose” potato because they have medium water and medium starch, so they are good for use in most any dish.  

You should never store uncooked potatoes in the refrigerator. It will turn part of the starch in the potato to sugar. Mashed potatoes will have a very sweet, unpleasing taste.

Dear Barbara: I have seen in magazines where they have little cakes in flower pots. Are clay pots safe to cook in and eat out of? — Haley from Lodi

Dear Haley: The pots you see in food magazines are food-grade pots made to bake in. I once was given a dip mix that came with a little shovel and pot. I know that the pot was specifically made for food. Your regular clay flower pots are made for flowers, not food. If you want the shape of the flower pot, you could line it with aluminum foil and bake in it, but not directly. However, that is a really cute idea, and what fun it would be to decorate the flower pot! You could put iced cookies on a stick with chocolate cake as dirt in the pot. I may have to try this!

Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at bdspitzer@comcast.net. Please include your first name and city.

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