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Ask Dr. Gourmet

What kind of potatoes should I use for different types of recipes?

My brother, who has been diabetic for 15 years, said that Yukon gold potatoes are OK for his diet. I enjoy Yukon golds, but also enjoy red potatoes for salad, as our mother used. Would you list what type of potatoes are good for what type recipes such as for salads, for soups, for side dishes, etc.? Do the calories in different types of potatoes greatly differ?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Potatoes have gotten a bad rap, mostly because of the Atkins diet. We now know that low-carbohydrate diets are just plain silly (why quit eating entire food groups?) and eating potatoes is fine. There are a lot of good carb choices and potatoes should be part of your pantry along with brown rice, sweet potatoes or yams, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, polenta and corn.

There are four basic types of potatoes – long white, russet, round red and round white.

The long white and russet are similar and contain higher amounts of starch, with a low moisture content. The russet potato is rounder and has a brownish skin with a lot of eyes. In contrast, the long white is longer (hence the name) and has a thin, grayer skin. These are great potatoes for baking and will be lighter and fluffy when baked. There are also small, long white potatoes about the size of a finger, appropriately named fingerling potatoes. I love these for roasting with a bit of olive oil, a touch of salt and maybe some roasted garlic.

Round potatoes include the round white and the round red, which when harvested young are known as "new potatoes." They are also called boiling potatoes and have a higher moisture content and a waxy texture. They are great for boiling, but I like these best for roasting. Round potatoes make the best mashed potatoes. Yukon Golds are a variety of round red and make the perfect mashed potatoes, having a richer flavor than their cousins.

So in short, for soups you want to thicken quickly, use russets, and those soups where you want the potatoes to retain their shape, use Yukon gold. For salads I prefer red potatoes or Yukon gold. For baking use Idaho potatoes (russets). For the absolute best mashed potatoes, I think you should use a half and half mix of russets and red potatoes.

There's no significant nutritional difference between potato types.
4 ounces boiled potato = 99 calories, <1g fat, 0g sat fat, 0g mono fat, 2g protein, 23g carbohydrates, 4mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, Vitamin K 2 micrograms.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan M.D.
Dr. Gourmet