Friday, December 10, 2010

Solid freaking gold. Plus potatoes. And garlic.

Alongside a multitude of pages devoted to the wonders of Thanksgiving, Saveur's November issue included a guide and tribute to the traditional Parisian bistro. It was, in a word, amazeballs. It made me want to book a trip to Paris immédiament. It made me want to cook some seriously delicious potatoes.

Anyone who's eaten in a bistro knows that they elevate the cooking of potatoes to an art form. Be they puréed, sautéed, roasted, smashed, gratinéed, name it, the bistro kicks ass at it. And so when I read about L'Ami Louis' recipe for a potato galette topped with fresh parsley and chopped garlic, I knew I had to have it.

Responsible woman that I am, I decided it was probably best to forgo dropping all obligations to fly off to Paris. Lucky for me, the potato galette with which I'd become enamored was one of the bistro-style recipes Saveur included in the issue. Score!

Now, one of the reasons that bistros ace Potato 101 is that they follow a couple of basic, core rules: first, cook the potatoes in more than one stage. Fry them twice, simmer them before roasting, whatever. But cook them in stages. Second, cook them in animal fat. Butter is fine; duck fat is best. Bacon fat or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) are pretty damn good, too.

Which brings us to my big bowl of golden deliciousness. This, my friends, is my bowl of schmaltz. Each time I roast a chicken, I carefully pour off the fat from the pan juices and store it, tightly covered, in the fridge. After a few chickens, I have a good 1/2 cup of rendered chicken fat, and I start using it all over the place. It goes into the oil I use to fry my latkes. It goes into soups, where I use it to brown the vegetables. It goes into vegetable sides, where I use it to saute the sprouts or cauliflower. Hell, in Europe, they spread it on bread, so who am I to skimp?

So, while you can certainly go out and buy a big old tub of duck fat to have on hand, I highly recommend being patient and frugal with your chicken. It'll be more rewarding than the skip-to-the-end solution, and you'll always have a supply on hand, assuming you roast a chicken once or twice a month. Boom.

Oh, and the galette? So ridiculously delicious that I ate the whole thing (well, a half-recipe version) for lunch, garlic and all.

Potato Galette
Adapted from Saveur

2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2" x 1⁄4" pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tbsp. rendered chicken fat
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. minced garlic

Place potatoes into a 4-qt. pot and cover by 1" with well-salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low,and simmer until potatoes are tender, 20–30 minutes. Drain potatoes and spread on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Transfer to the refrigerator, and chill for at least 20 miunutes. (If you're roasting a chicken to eat with the galette, let the potatoes chill until the bird is almost ready to come out of the oven.)

When you're ready to make the galette, heat oven to 400°. Melt fat and butter in a 6" skillet over medium heat.

Put chilled potatoes into a bowl. Pour fat and butter over potatoes (reserving skillet) and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Tranfser potatoes to reserved skillet and cover with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside rim of skillet.

Cook, smashing potatoes into skillet with a metal spatula, until edges begin to crisp and brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until potato cake is golden brown, 10–15 minutes (to check, use a fork to lift up one edge of the potato cake).

Invert a small serving plate over skillet. Using 2 tea towels, hold plate and skillet together firmly and invert skillet. Remove skillet and garnish potato cake with parsley and garlic. Serve hot.

Serves 3-4.

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