I remember the buzz when Yukon Gold potatoes first came on the market many years ago: a yellow-fleshed potato touted as being so tasty and rich that it hardly needed any butter. Today, purple, blue, and even pink potatoes are the new kids on the block, and Yukon Golds aren’t the novelty they once were. But they remain a gold mine in my kitchen.
Developed in Canada, Yukon Golds are a cross between a North American white potato and a wild South American yellow-fleshed one. Their golden flesh is richly flavored and fairly firm and moist, with medium starch content. A perfect compromise between dry, fluffy russet potatoes and moist, waxy varieties, Yukon Golds are incredibly versatile. They’re superb for mashing and in soups and chowders, and they’re great for roasting, skillet frying (see my recipe for Pan-Fried Yukon Gold Potatoes with Paprika), boiling, and even for making french fries and potato chips. There’s almost nothing you can’t do with a Yukon Gold. They’re truly an all-purpose potato.
As with other starchy foods like rice, grains, and beans, Yukon Gold potatoes provide a wonderful canvas for other flavors. Cream and cheese add richness, and sharp cheeses give a nice bite. Fresh herbs make wonderful aromatic partners, particularly the stout woody ones such as rosemary, sage, winter savory, thyme, and oregano. But more delicate herbs like parsley, cilantro, and chives also pair very well. Assertive spices like paprika, coriander, pepper, and nutmeg are also very compatible. If you have pink peppercorns on hand, Yukon Golds provide an excellent backdrop for their fragrant, sprightly flavor. I don’t usually single out salt as a seasoning, but it plays an important role in bringing out the flavor of potatoes (and other starchy foods). And with potatoes, you always need more of it than you think. Aromatics like onions, garlic, leeks, celery, and peppers also meld beautifully with Yukon Golds.
Simple ways to enjoy Yukon Golds
For herb-roasted potatoes, roast whole small Yukon Golds, tossed with olive oil and seasoned with coarse sea salt and pepper, in a hot oven until tender. During the last 20 minutes of cooking, add a handful of chopped sage, rosemary, winter savory, or several sprigs of thyme or a combination. Toss together and finish cooking.
Braised with artichokes
To turn out a flavorful Mediterranean braise, brown quartered trimmed artichokes and quartered Yukon Golds in olive oil, then add olives, a few thin slices of lemon, slivered garlic, fresh or dried oregano, salt and pepper, and some chicken or vegetable stock. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has reduced to a few tablespoons, 30 to 35 minutes.
For garlic mashed potatoes, cover 1-1/2 pounds of quartered Yukon Golds and a head of peeled garlic in water, boil until tender, and drain. Immediately mash with a hand masher to your desired smoothness. Add salt, pepper, half a stick of butter, and if desired, a little half-and-half or cream.
Boiled and smashed
After boiling Yukon Golds in their jackets, smash them roughly with a fork right on the dinner plate, then drizzle with good extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle on sea salt, a grind of black pepper, and a scattering of chopped chives.
In a gratin
For a simple but rich gratin, layer very thin slices of Yukon Golds in a generously buttered dish or skillet, arranging them so the slices just overlap. Sprinkle each layer lightly with salt and pepper, a little crushed pink peppercorn, rosemary leaves, and a little grated hard cheese, like Asiago or Parmigiano Reggiano. Make three to four layers in all. Pour a little heavy cream over all and bake at 375°F for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden.
As a soup
For a delicious and simple soup, sweat chopped leeks and celery in a little olive oil or butter, then simmer the leeks and celery with diced potatoes in chicken or vegetable stock or water. Season with salt and pepper. When the vegetables are tender, purée and serve hot or cold, with a dollop of sour cream topped with chopped chives.