The array of potatoes that greets you at the supermarket generally falls into three categories: Boilers, bakers, or all-purpose potatoes.
Most potatoes grown in Idaho are Russets easily distinguished by their smooth russet color and characteristic oblong shape. Their only mark of authenticity as Idaho potatoes is the seal, "Grown in Idaho", placed on each bag of potatoes by The Idaho Potato Commission, the potato marketing arm of the State of Idaho.
Other familiar names among the more than 30 varieties of "Grown in Idaho" potatoes include: French fingerling, Ida Rose, purple Peruvian and Yukon gold.
Russets are most sought after for baking, frying, and concocting the most delicious mashed potatoes imaginable.
Russets are preferred for baking because, when carefully baked, they produce a fluffy moist interior most receptive to a wide choice of toppings, and a crisp and flavorful skin.
On the other hand, the relatively high starch, low moisture potatoes fall apart easily when boiled, but there are some delicious advantages to be taken.
Russets make the best traditional potato salad when their creamy texture is combined with mayonnaise, eggs, and loaded with crunchy vegetable bits like celery, pickles, and onion.
Russets also fall apart in soups with delightful results. Cubes of Russets not only flavor a vegetable soup, but add a comforting richness and flavor.
Vichyssoise made with Russet potatoes is likely to be especially smooth and creamy with a full satisfying flavor even when chilled to an almost icy texture.
Russet potatoes are highly recommended for frying. After soaking and rinsing, properly cooked Russet potatoes produce the best crisp-on-the outside, creamy-on-the-outside French fries.
These smooth, round, red or white potatoes are often called Idaho potatoes, but are more aptly referred to as "new" or boiling potatoes because the waxy, low starch, high moisture potatoes are not old enough to have developed very much starch or the basic characteristics of their variety. These "new" potatoes usually appear early in the year and are not related to longer growing late season varieties of small potatoes.
New potatoes tend to hold their shapes when cooked in soups and stews or boiled and used for salads. They are delicious standouts when cooked together with root vegetables, like parsnips, carrots, and turnips, to accompany roasted meat and fowl.
These potatoes seem at their best when taken from the soil while still new and underdeveloped and gently steamed in their skins and finished with butter and a generous sprinkle of herbs or a cream sauce.
These are potatoes that fall somewhere beneath "new" or Russet potatoes in quality and cost and are often commonly referred to as Idaho potatoes. Visible characteristics of the potatoes might be the best guide for determining their use.
It is easy to understand the popularity of potatoes. They always seem to be in generous supply in interesting varieties waiting for good cooks to explore the delicious possibilities of potatoes.