Sunday, April 20, 2003

Serve it this week: Fingerling potatoes

By Chuck Martin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

What: Popular in Europe for years, fingerling potatoes are just becoming widely available in the United States. Fingerlings are small, narrow tubers that can be finger- or crescent-shaped. There are several varieties of fingerlings available in different shapes and colors, including Ruby Crescent, Russian Banana, Purple Peruvian and Austrian Crescent.

Buy: Feel for rock-hard fingerling potatoes with no soft spots or sprouts. Avoid potatoes with holes or cuts and those that have a green tinge. In her Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini (Morrow; $60), author Elizabeth Schneider advises that "flaking skin, uneven color and dirtiness are signs of freshness, not inferiority."

Store: These small, thin-skinned potatoes are more perishable than russets and other spuds. Buy only what you need and use fingerlings within a few days. Store in a cool, dark place in a paper bag with plenty of breathing room, and keep away from onions, which can hasten potatoes spoilage.

Prepare: Cook fingerlings whole, or cut in half lengthwise. No need to peel them, just wash and scrub well. Fingerlings can be cooked like other potatoes - pan-fried, steamed, boiled, baked and roasted. The little potatoes make excellent salads and can also be pureed. A simple moist-cooking method, recommended by Judy Rodgers in Zuni Cafe Cookbook (Norton; $35), calls for cutting the fingerlings in half lengthwise. Then toss them in a little white wine and olive oil (about 3 tablespoons each for 11/2 pounds of potatoes), add salt, pepper and fresh thyme to taste. Place potatoes in a single layer in a pan or casserole, cover and roast at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until tender.

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