Monday, November 30, 2009
All hail the Incas, for they gave the world spuds
Potatoes were first domesticated and cultivated 7,000 years ago in what is now South America. Credit the ancient Incas for figuring out that the underground part of the potato plant is edible and even highly nutritious, while the leafy green part is actually poisonous.
The potato plant, after all, is part of the nightshade family, and that includes such killers as belladonna, the species that supposedly felled the Roman legion led by Marcus Arelius in the Parthian war.
Spaniards entering what is now Colombia in the late 1530s first came across potatoes, and they made their way back to Europe by 1570. Now, of course, they are a worldwide staple, as recognized as rice and wheat.
That's a good thing, because it is going to be part of this week's competency exam.
Other potato dishes that Chef Dan demonstrated today: potato salad; pommes Anna (thin slices sautéed in an attractive pattern, then baked); pomme gratin (baked with cheese); pomme roesti (grated and formed into a six-inch cylinder, sautéfollowed by oven baking until golden brown); potato pancakes or latkes.