By Iron Chef Leftovers
I do entirely too much reading of cookbooks. These days, I am not really looking for recipe ideas, more just to learn techniques. One thing that I hate to cook, but Mrs. Iron Chef loves to eat are potatoes. For me, they really are just a vehicle for adding stuff to it, much like chicken breast, so you go from healthy to unhealthy in a hurry since potatoes don’t inherently have much taste. For my End of the World meal, I was making beef stew served in a can, which I thought about it, and what goes better with beef stew than potatoes (well, celery root puree, sun choke puree…just humor me here). I took a hybrid technique from Modernist Cuisine and Cook’s Illustrated to come up with this recipe. This really isn’t much more difficult to do than making regular potatoes, but you will get better texture on them and you can actually do stage one in advance and finish them when you are ready to serve. When you are done, you should end up with potatoes that are creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The only special equipment you really need is a steamer basket.
1 large Yukon Gold potato, cut into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons fat (bacon fat, duck fat, butter or olive oil all work well. See note below)
Salt and pepper
Stage 1 – Fill a large pot with water to just below the surface of the steamer basket. Heat water over high heat until steam is visible. Add the potatoes to the basket in a single layer. Cover the pot and steam for 13 minutes. Check the potatoes for doneness – you are aiming for them to be slightly al dente and they should have leached their starch to the surface, so they will feel tacky. Remove them to a plate lined with a couple of paper towels and dry. It is important that the potatoes are dry before starting stage 2.
Stage 2 – Heat a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes (don’t use non-stick here). Add the fat and heat over medium-high heat until it just begins to smoke. Test the heat of the fat by dipping the edge of one potato slice in the fat. If it sizzles immediately, the fat is hot enough and you can add the potatoes in a single layer. If they all won’t fit in the skillet, you can do stage 2 in multiple batches. If the fat is not hot enough, continue heating it until you can get your test to sizzle. You are really just browning/reheating the potatoes and looking to get a golden crust on each side, so you probably won’t need more than about 2 minutes of cooking time on each side, checking after 1 minute to see the progress. After both sides are browned, remove to a cooking rack or a plate with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve right away. It pairs nicely with this Beef Carbonnade recipe.
You really want the potatoes dry before putting them in the fat since hot fat + water = bad news. Your cooking time will really depend on what type of fat you use. Animal fats (butter, bacon fat, duck fat) have a lower smoke point than vegetable fats (olive oil, vegetable oil), so they will reach that stage quicker and take longer to brown the potatoes, which is why you really want to check them after about the first minute. You can actually skip stage 2 if you want and just serve the potatoes steamed. Just increase the cooking time to about 16 minutes in the steamer. This dish would also benefit from the addition of some fresh rosemary, sage or thyme.