One Potato, Two Potato...
Three Potato, Gold! Yukon Gold, that is! Well, someone is striking it rich with the Yukon Gold potato. In fact, it is said that the Yukon gold potato as well as a number of other yellow-fleshed potatoes are putting this once most popular starch back onto our plates.
It is possibly due to the flavour of the Yukon, which can be described as buttery, almost nutty and best of all does not beg for a pat of butter. Maybe it’s because this potato is the most versatile of all potatoes; good for baking, boiling, frying, and mashing. Maybe it’s because a lot of us are food snobs, and when we read all about this gourmet potato in magazines such as Gourmet and Bon Appetite, we just naturally have to have it! Or, maybe it is because this potato has a relatively short-lived appearance in stores, and just as marketers of the Cabbage Patch Doll and Playstation2 can attest to, there is a definite relationship between supply & demand: as supply goes down, demand goes up!
For most Europeans and South Americans, the yellow potato has been the norm, not the exception for many years. Here in North America, we have survived until recently with mainly the white fleshed varieties, and the occasional flurry of odd-coloured varieties such as the blue potato.( My boys wouldn’t touch these with a ten-foot fork!) This has been due to the fact that the white potato is so hardy, and is easily grown in the North American climate. Chefs from around the world have expounded the virtues of the yellow potato for years, but until 20 years ago they were largely unavailable to us because of their unsuitability to our growing seasons and low-resistance to diseases. A group of researchers at the University of Guelph saw the interest in the gold-fleshed potato, and started in the 1960s cross-breeding North American white potatoes with a variety of wild South American yellow-fleshed potato. The result was the Yukon Gold, born in 1980. Although the seeds were released in the early 1980s, popularity of this potato did not reach its peak until just a few years ago, commanding premium prices in the grocery store.
There are other gold-fleshed varieties on the market now, but they are not as in-demand as the Yukon Gold. These other varieties will generally appear in the grocery store labelled as “Yellow Fleshed Potatoes”. A true Yukon Gold will be labelled as such.
The Yukon Gold has a relatively short availability, usually from August to February. Because they have a slightly higher sugar content, gold potatoes do not store as well as white potatoes, and for this reason, they are only found in stores in season. They are considered a fresh-market vegetable, to be consumed shortly after harvest. Like white potatoes, yellow potatoes should be stored in the dark but, unlike white potatoes, in the fridge. The cold causes the higher starch content of the white potatoes to turn to sugar, but the lower starch content of yellow reduces this problem. If you remove the Golds from the fridge over-night to a cool, dark place, the sugar should convert back to starch, unless the potatoes are too old.
Avoid any potatoes with green spots. Exposure to light causes the production of solanine in potatoes, which is bitter and can cause intestinal discomfort. It is alright to cut off small green spots, but if the potato is more than half green, throw it out. As with other produce such as apples, one bad potato will spoil the rest, so be careful to cull out any with black, soft spots. (Jordan has accused me of using a mixed-metaphor here.) Potatoes should never be stored next to onions, garlic, apples or pears. They can quickly absorb these flavours.
Yukon Golds tend to fall apart when boiled, but I served them for Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I simply dumped them out into a colander to save all of the broken pieces for my mashed potatoes. They were the most flavourable and attractive mashed potatoes I have ever made, although, of course, the kids still doused their mountains of yellow with gravy. I’ve given up trying to teach them about the subtle flavours of unadulterated foods.
If you are like me at all, you will have found that trying to estimate quantities of potatoes boiled to yield of mashed is brain-surgery. I have found an equivalents chart that claims: 1 lb = 4 cps diced = 1-3/4 cps mashed. Perhaps! I usually count on using two medium sized potatoes per person, unless your sons and nephews have decided to have a potato eating contest, and then you are out of luck.
Some chefs will dry their boiled Yukon Golds in a warm oven to increase their ability to soak up butter and cream when mashing. Never use a food processor or electric mixer to whip potatoes. This will only cause the starches to form a gluey, gooey, mess. (Yup! I=ve done that one myself.)