Potatoes are one of the most versatile cooking ingredients. I love potatoes. I have not found a preparation of potatoes that I don’t like. And yes, I’m now going to go on about potatoes like Forest Gump went on about shrimp.

There was a time in my life when someone convinced me to go on a diet, and starchy potatoes are a major taboo in almost any diet I’ve ever known. During that time, I ate sweet potatoes in many interesting forms. Sweet potatoes are good. They are good as fries. They are okay as mashed potatoes. They are good baked and served with brown sugar and butter (also not on any diet plan I know). But I’ll be honest. I do not prefer sweet potatoes. And if eaten in balance, I don’t think that a little starch in your diet is bad, but I’m not a nutritionist, so consult yours if have specific dietary limitations.

What kind of potatoes you want to buy is going to depend on personal preference and on what you are making. I did some research and learned that there are over 200 kinds of potatoes, and in the U.S., we narrow it down to 7 basic categories: Russet, Red, White, Yellow, Purple, Fingerling and Petite. I am no expert on using them, but these are my opinions.

Red potatoes are the best option if you are making simple oven roasted potatoes with herbs. Red potatoes are also great for soups, stews and potato salads. Yukon Gold are the best option if you are making any type of scalloped or au gratin potatoes. I also prefer Yukon Gold for making mashed potatoes, as they have a wonderful, light, airy texture. This is especially true if you rice your potatoes. But they also work well if you like peel on, rough-mashed potatoes.

Your smaller gold potatoes or baby red potatoes are great if you want smashed potatoes. I am not a fan of Russet potatoes, but they are typically fine for frying or if you are going to bake and load it with everything in your kitchen. At that point, the potato is just a means to get to the cheese, sour cream, bacon, etc. I haven’t really cooked with the truly White variety of potatoes. Based on my research, maybe I’ll try them for a lighter potato salad.

Purple potatoes, in my opinion, are really just about making your plate look more interesting. Obviously, I’m not making them into mashed potatoes (Dr. Suess does not inform my cooking), but they can make a nice color addition as roasted or fried potatoes, especially when mixed with other colors.

My older girls love fingerling and petite potatoes. We tend to oven roast them tossed with olive oil and herbs, but I have had fingerlings sliced and fried, and they were good too. Petites are also great for throwing in crockpot dishes as they come out fully cooked but tend not to fall apart during cooking.

I’ve recently learned that potatoes can be used to make a vegan cheese sauce. This baffled me, but I did some research, and it’s very simple to make. I’m going to do some experimenting with this concept and whether I can truly create something akin to mac-n-cheese for my vegans!

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