Cooking Class Day 6 – Potatoes

This week at L’Academie de Cuisine, our class was all about potatoes.

We made:

Potatoes Gratin Dauphinois – amazing potatoes gratin from the Dauphinois region of France. Made with lots of cream and cheese (basically a swimming pool of creamy cheese). Made with higher starch potatoes such as Russet or Idaho. Baked until brown on top.

Pommes Anna – A beautiful presentation of overlapping potato slices, cooked together in a pan with butter and thyme. The starch in the potatoes helps them hold together in a “cake”. Martha Stewart has a lovely picture of Potatoes Anna on her website.

Potatoes Rissoles – “Tossed in butter”. We used a tourne cut, which apparently takes hours and hours to learn to do properly. These potatoes were brought just to a boil, rinsed and dried, and then sautéed with butter (or duck fat) and rosemary until browned.

Pan Roasted Fingerling Potatoes – Browned in a skillet on the stove, briefly, in duck fat. Finished in the oven.

Pommes Puree – Slightly different than mashed potatoes, with a silkier texture. Made using a potato ricer. The version we practiced included a goat cheese and thyme infused cream.

Pommes Frites – We learned good fries or “frites” should be fried twice. Once at a low temperature, just to cook the potatoes, and once at a higher temperature to brown and crisp them. Always salt immediately out of the fryer.

Gnocchi – Delicious little potato pasta “pillows”. I will elaborate on this dish in another post, soon.

There are so many great preparations here, that it would be impossible to elaborate on all of them at once. I am also finding it hard to practice everything I am learning in class, all in one week. I feel like what I learned in class this week alone, could keep me busy for a month!

Another thing keeping me busy this past week was planning my oldest daughter’s 4th birthday. We were blessed to have some of our family over for a birthday brunch, this past weekend. My daughter is a typically picky eater, and when asked what she wanted for her special birthday meal, it had to be waffles. For this occasion Among other things, I also decided to make a breakfast version of the roasted fingerling potatoes we learned in class. Now- this preparation is not for the faint of heart, so be warned! I scrubbed the fingerlings (probably 2 1/2 lbs.) and cut the largest ones in half so that they were all about equal size. I had some fat from frying bacon for the quiche, and I used that, and (gulp) some duck fat to saute the potatoes, just until they were a little browned on the outside. I added the browned potatoes to a large roasting pan, and added in two small chopped onions, a couple peeled and smashed garlic cloves, a few big sprigs of rosemary, and lots of salt and pepper. I already had the oven set to 375 degrees for the frittatas I was cooking. I roasted the potatoes at the same temperature, checking on them and shaking the pan to stir them, periodically. I lost track of how long it took, but I would say about 45 minutes to an hour at this temperature. The chunks of onion got a little blackened on the bottom of the pan, but that is kind of how we like them. Once, out of the oven, I tasted them, added a bit more salt, and they were good to go.

Above you can see some of what we had for the birthday girl’s waffle extravaganza: Frittata with Bacon, Fresh Ricotta, and Greens, Smoky Frittata with Cauliflower from Plenty, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Fruit Salad with Mint Sugar, Bacon, Alton Brown’s Chocolate Waffles, Waffles of Insane Greatness, and toppings including Blueberry Syrup from the Gourmet Cookbook and Chocolate Whipped Cream. My parents also picked up some donut holes which we put in little mini cupcake liners and used on a tiered stand as our centerpiece. The birthday girl had a great time, and we somehow fit four candles in one donut hole.

Another preparation I got to try this week was the Potatoes Rissole.

This week, we were introduced to the tourne cut, which is a fancy, seven-sided football shape cut. I found a great video from Le Cordon Bleu Schools which explains the cut if you are interested:

You can use a paring knife, or a tourne knife (also called bird’s beak knife) to achieve this cut.

Wusthof Gourmet Peeling Knife, from amazon.com

This is a cut which is practiced and practiced before chefs get really good at it. I wanted to try it, but I knew my little potato footballs would not have the beautiful seven equal sides I had been shown. That will take time, my friends.

Above, you can see I made small tourne potatoes, by cutting yukon gold potatoes into fourths, and cutting each piece.  This results in a lot of scraps.

Instead, of wasting the scraps, we decided to roast them with olive oil, onion, salt, and pepper on a baking pan in a 375 degree oven while I finished the potatoes rissole. They were all different sizes, so I knew they would cook at different rates, but I figured it was better than letting them go to waste.

Meanwhile, the trimmed potatoes went into cold salted water. You only need enough water to cover the potatoes by half an inch. Too much water will take longer to come to a boil, and overcook the potatoes. At this point, you also want to have a large bowl of ice water ready.

Bring the potatoes and water just to a boil for a minute or two, and then drain, immerse in ice water, drain again, and rinse the potatoes. The goal is to cook them partially, and finish them in the saute pan.

Next, you want to heat some duck fat, clarified butter, brown butter, or other fat over high heat in your saute pan. Add the potatoes, and saute at high heat, tossing in the butter, and moving the pan frequently. You want to the potatoes to get a deep golden brown on all sides. I used brown butter and rosemary to flavor my potatoes. I noticed that at this high heat, the rosemary got dark very quickly, and I had to remove it from the pan. If I did this again, I would add the rosemary later. The brown butter was something I had made ahead, and I have included another good video on how to make brown butter at the end of the post.

Once I had checked a potato, and knew they were cooked through, I adjusted the seasoning, by adding salt, and served the potatoes with a generous sprinkling of parmesan.

Wondering how the scraps turned out? Awesome! Actually, it was a hard choice for the family to figure out which they liked better, the roasted potato scraps, or the potatoes rissole.

Interested in making brown butter?

Here is a great YouTube video, to explain the process:

Here is what mine looked like:

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Stay tuned for an EPIC gnocchi post!

Happy Cooking,

Melissa

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