Remember in the first Harry Potter book when the rat’s nest now delicious sex pot Hermione Granger corrected Ron on his pronunciation of the levitation spell? I sort of roll my eyes and sigh exacerbated at the snobbish attitude of the little Miss Knowitall as she swished and flicks her wand but I found myself doing the same exact thing in the kitchen this past weekend as I was doing meal prep for a Meal Train I participated in. What is a meal train? It’s kind of like GoFundMe but with food and my amazing neighborhood of Tower Grove South set one up for a family who had been suffered a great loss the previous week. On the menu was chicken confit (I’ll do the recipe post at a later time), asparagus seared in duck fat with salt and pepper and potatoes. But I didn’t want to do just any potato. Mashed potatoes while delicious and comforting didn’t quite seem right due to the other dishes I was making and I didn’t want to do plain Jane roasted potatoes because again, it just would have seemed boring next to a piece of chicken which was slow cooked in its own fat for 8 hours. I am sure that whatever I would have sent would have been graciously accepted because it was a heartfelt gift I am a sucker for making sure everything for me goes well and you have different cooking techniques. Then I remembered an episode of Food Wishes where Chef John made fondant potatoes. If you don’t know who Chef John is go check out his blog at Food Wishes. He’s amazing and hilarious and I love his blog and use his recipes a lot.
So back to why I impersonated Hermione Granger. When I was thinking of a title for this blog a friend of mine Patrick said S.P.U.D: Special Potato Underwater Division and it got me thinking as to where did the slang “spud” come from and of course using my superhero abilities of Google I sought out the answer. It led me of course to Wikipedia and my journey began.
The name spud for a small potato comes from the digging of soil (or a hole) prior to the planting of potatoes. The word has an unknown origin and was originally (c. 1440) used as a term for a short knife or dagger, probably related to Dutch spyd or the Latin “spad-” a word root meaning “sword”; cf. Spanish “espada”, English “spade” and “spadroon”. The word spud traces back to the 16th century. It subsequently transferred over to a variety of digging tools. Around 1845, the name transferred to the tuber itself. The origin of the word “spud” has erroneously been attributed to a 19th-century activist group dedicated to keeping the potato out of Britain, calling itself The Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet (S.P.U.D.).It was Mario Pei‘s 1949 The Story of Language that can be blamed for the word’s false origin. Pei writes, “the potato, for its part, was in disrepute some centuries ago. Some Englishmen who did not fancy potatoes formed a Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diet. The initials of the main words in this title gave rise to spud.” Like most other pre-20th century acronymic origins, this is false. Wikipedia
I couldn’t help but kind of laugh to myself at the idea that Hermionne Granger might have been a secret member of this secret society much like her participation in Dumbledore’s Army. Her hatred for the starchy tuber shown in her contempt for words where the emphasis on the wrong syllable was present. That and the scientific name for potato is Solanum tuberosum.
So what exactly is a fondant potato. My only knowledge of the word fondant prior to this recipe was associated with the chalky horrible tasting crap they put on pretentious cakes to make them all fancy and shit. Horrid chalky crap and if you add too much food coloring it tastes even worse. Never use the stuff never will, though I do make an awesome version of fondant using marshmallows..Again another post for a later time. A fondant potato is for all intents and purposes a roasted potato which is cooked in a stock. It’s a rather old school old world cooking technique and for the more than likely would never have graced the plates of the monthly meetings of S.P.U.D due to the high carbohydrate count (hoity toity bastards). Also did you know that to differentiate between the “white” and “sweet” potatoes that the white or Irish potatoes were called “bastard potatoes”? I think now when I need potatoes from the store I’m gonna ask for a bag of bastards . GIMMIE A 10# of bastards please!
Like most potato dishes it is actually somewhat important to choose a potato that is best appropriate for the job. There are three classifications of potatoes. Starchy, Waxy Skin and All purpose. Your starchy potatoes are going to be your russets and your sweet potatoes which are best for baking and frying because they are super absorbent. Your waxy skin potatoes are your red skinned and fingerling potatoes and those are best for soups and salads (potato salad..blech) because they hold their shape well when cooking and then you have your AP potatoes. These are your Yukon golds, blue and purple potatoes and they are great for all sorts of things (mashing, baked, roasted). They are the quintessential carbohydrate superstar. But according to Chef John who is pretty much my only resource for this recipe the best potato would be the russet and the reason why is
because of its ability to absorb liquids. Remember these potatoes are roasted in a stock. which means? C’mon put 2 and 2 together…Let me give you a minute to figure it out. YES!!! we want that liquid to become absorbed into the potato and flavor it from the inside! Good job GOLD STAR.
For the recipe you just need russet potatoes of roughly the same shape and size, neutral oil (canola, grape seed, even vegetable oil), your choice of fresh herbs, butter, salt & pepper and stock. Pretty much everything someone should already have in their pantry and fridge. All in all the recipe will take about eeeeh 45 minutes or so and for 3 large potatoes you can get 6 fondant potatoes which is a good serving for 2-3 people. I would recommend for each person you want to cook for allocate 1 potato to that person because this is a side dish and you will hopefully have other things to go along with it.
Start by washing off your potatoes, why? I have no clue but I personally hate the way potatoes feel in my hands and washing them just makes it less annoying. You can skip this step if you really want to because it’s an optional step and as we know, Americans are
lazy bastards and don’t like to have things be too complicated. You can either choose to use a potato peeler or a knife. Using the potato peeler has a tendency to give the potato a more uniform spherical shape while the knife allows you to create edges, again your choice I chose the potato peeler. After your potatoes are peeled you’re going to want to cut off the edges so that it looks again more uniform in shape. This is help ensure that they all cook at the same rate so you don’t have an Ebenezer Scrooge moment where you start hallucinating about your dead partner due to an undigested fragment of an underdone potato. I’m pretty sure good ole Ebenezer was suffering from mass organ failure due to the fact that potatoes are a member of the nightshade family and he was suffering from a rare and extreme case of toxicity poisoning. Good riddance, the buggery bastard potatoes did us well……what?!?! good lord, okay fine.
Once you’ve evenly shaped up your potatoes you will want to cut them as close to in half as possible and then place in a bowl of cold water to soak for 5 minutes. This allows the starch that clung to the raw potato during peeling/cutting to get washed away. Also potatoes release a natural chemical called Acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures with growing concerns that the formation of this chemical could cause health problems. Simply soaking your potatoes for 30 minutes can help reduce the formation by around 23%. While your potatoes are soaking you are going to want to preheat your oven to 425 degrees as well as start to heat your cast-iron skillet over high heat. Drain your potatoes and completely dry the outside with a paper towel and set to the side. When your cast iron pan is hot add around 2 tablespoons of your neutral oil and allow the oil a few minutes to heat up. This is an important step because we don’t want the russet which we’ve already acknowledged is good absorbing liquid sitting in cold oil and soaking that in while it heats up. We want it to absorb the stock and the butter but not necessarily the oil as well so be patient and wait till the oil starts to shimmer and smoke slightly. Choose the best side of your spud and place that in the oil to cook first and season liberally with salt and pepper Why the best side down? These ultimately will be the side that is presented when dinner is served so why not show the best side. If using a large 10 inch cast iron skillet you can fit around 12 potatoes without it being too crowded, but you want to make sure that you don’t over crowd the pan if at all possible. Break it up into two pans that are safe to go into the oven for long periods of time. Now the time in which to cook the 1 side of potatoes will change depending on how well your cast iron distributes the heat and of course well time. You want to be able to develop a nice crust of a nice medium brown before flipping over.
After you’ve browned one side of all your potatoes you will want to take a paper towel and with a set of tongs soak up any of the remaining oil. It only was needed to serve its job as maillard reaction maker (we’ve discussed the maillard reaction before so I’m not repeating
myself. GOOGLE IT!) and we are going to replace it with butter and whatever fresh herb you chose, salt and pepper. For this application I only had fresh sage which hey that’s awesome and some garlic. Take your butter (around 2 tablespoons) and your herb and allow it to melt in with the potatoes. Go on..It’s okay. we don’t care what that silly S.P.U.D organizations says. DO EEEEEET!. We want the butter to go from foamy white to just the tinge of brown before we add our stock. Browning the butter adds another layer of flavor and imparts a sort of nutty toasted flavor to whatever it touches. It’s great for steaks, vegetables, and oddly enough icing in cupcakes. Yes..That too will be another blog post. C’mon I’ve only got so many free hours and money on the weekend to this people! When you notice the color of the butter start to take on a light brown color add your stock. Now we can keep this vegetarian by adding oddly enough vegetable stock or you can use chicken stock. It’s up to you. I’m pretty sure you can also make this vegan by using vegan butter as well. I’ve not cooked with it so I don’t. If you are a vegan and you do cook with vegan butter please let me know how well it works :). You will want to add around 1/2 cup of stock before placing the cast iron into the oven for 30-45 minutes. If you notice that your potatoes aren’t finished and are looking a little dry just add a little more stock. The end result should be a perfectly cooked potato with a crusty crispy exterior but a rich and creamy inside. Now you understand why we use the russet potato..because it absorbed all that goodness from the pan and took it into itself so we can then take it into us. The circle of Life!
Kyle absolutely loves these potatoes and is always asking if I am making them when we decide to have potatoes as our starch/carbohydrate for the evening. Since I enjoy making them so much they’ve become a rather fixed part of our dinner rotation if not having rice (which is rare) or a pasta dish (which is also rare). Now don’t this ish twisted. There is nothing wrong with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and fried potatoes but um..this is the best way 🙂
Enjoy! And like always please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion, tips. I’m not a professional and I’m always learning so I do enjoy the feedbacks.
Time: 45-60 minutes: Serves 2-3 people
- 3 large russets of similar shape and size
- 2 tablespoons butter ( or vegan butter)
- 3-4 springs of fresh herbs (your choice)
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, grape seed, vegetable)
- 1/2-3/4 c. stock (vegetable, chicken, etc)
- Optional addins: Crushed garlic cloves
Preheat oven to 425 and preheat cast-iron skilled on high. Cut ends off of potatoes and either use a potato peeler to peel away skin or cut off with a knife. Cut in half and soak in cold water to remove starch build up for 5 minutes. When pan is hot add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat till shimmering and lightly smoking. Dry potatoes thoroughly and add to the oil with presentation side down, season liberally with salt and pepper and cook undisturbed for 5-6 minutes or until sides are golden brown. Once browned, take a paper towel and remove access oil, replacing it with butter and herbs. Allow butter to melt, spooning it over the potatoes and adding salt and pepper again. Pour in 1/2 cup of stock of your choice and transfer to hot oven to cook undisturbed for 30-45 minutes. At the 30 minute mark check for doneness, if potatoes are still firm and the stock has evaporated add another 1/4 cup and return to cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for five minutes until serving.