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May 3, 2009 12:07 PM

The Mighty Potato

Have memories in your life caused your imagination to go out of control???

That first kiss, going to your first drive in movie, eating snails for the first time, hating school, but sometimes loving it? We could go on and on here....but I remember this....

Savoring the perfect French Fry...the double cooked french fry, cooked first at about 375, then second cooking at about 425 degrees, crispy outside, soft and tender outside, doused with malt vinegar, or creamy homemade mayo...perhaps with a hint of curry, dijon mustard spattered all over, or just plain old ketsup>>>this happened in 1980 in Brussels, Belgium.....

Now, today, reality bites....I am writing to you from Buffalo New York and I have a dream to open the best darn Pomme Frites store this side of the catskills...a few exist in NYC....but alas poor Bflo...

Is the potato really such a good thing???? Or are my memories simply taking my imagination on a ride????

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  1. Context counts for a lot. I can bring a bottle of Mirto home from Sardegna, but it just won't taste the same at my kitchen table as it does at the kitchen table of the rented house by the beach, sipped while playing cards after a long day swimming in the sea and a simple, gorgeous spaghetti dinner with friends and family.

    But to answer your other question, I do think there's a convincing case to be made that the fried potato is one of the greatest culinary joys ever created by mankind.

    1. potatoes are a really good thing!

      perfect mash full of butter and the right amount of salt, great chips at the seaside, loaded skins, saute potatoes with a great dinner, mash on shepherd's pie with the gravy coming through, mash with peas, my mum's cheesy mash when we were sick, potatoes dauphinois with cream and garlic, kettle chips, Walker's crisps, Pringles, crispy roast potatoes with a perfect roast chicken.

      wonderful, wonderful things - thank Sir Walter Raleigh for bringing them to England.

      1 Reply
      1. re: smartie

        Yeah, don't forget those loaded skins on your menu. Use good cheese!

      2. Potatoes doubt about it. It's really the only starchy food I crave (well, okay...I crave pasta sometimes but it's usually because of the sauce and cheese that may be driving the craving, so it's not just the pasta that I crave; I don't really care about pasta and butter, either.) I remember one time not too long ago my son requested chili for dinner--great, made it with cornbread--but I JUST HAD to have a baked potato with mine. And there have been times when I didn't care if I just had mashed potatoes for dinner and nothing else. I hope that you can somehow realize your dream of opening your pomme frites place!

        1. I'm pretty sure potatoes are the perfect food. Anyway they are served, I'm all over it.

          1. BG:

            If you really want to make your place a success, learn how to make "souffle potatoes". These are potatoes cut to a specific shape - a sort of 1/8th inch thick octagon - fried once in oil, and left to cool, and then plunged back into hot oil just before serving. They puff up like little pillows, and hit immediately with salt, taste like a cross between the best fry and potato chip you've ever had. I had them on my honeymoon in Madrid over 20 years ago, and I still remember them like it was yesterday. Apparently, it takes the right kind of potato, a precise cut, and carefully regulated oil temps, but if you can master it, you'll do more business than the Anchor Bar did in its best days.

            8 Replies
            1. re: KevinB

              Kevin, those are the most wonderful potatoes indeed! I've never attempted them, but have been tempted to - Julia Child covers them in Mastering... Have you ever been so brave as to try?


              1. re: cayjohan

                O now i am on a potato roll..I have my Mastering cookbook on my lap...trying to find :"souffle Potatoes" that Kevin B. was so kind to mention....

                I would love to make them this week!!! Need to get the fight oil and the right spud...will let all know how they turn out...some day i will see you all at my tiny little spud shop....I plan on having just the right condiments as well..

                to see people smile after eating is one of life's greatest pleasures

                1. re: Buffalogal

                  Never met a person that did not LOVE potatoes...

                  1. re: Sean

                    I'm sorry, but I hate potatoes, but I guess I'm weird. Potatoes and rice are things I hate to see on restaurant menus, because I probably won't order an entree if it comes with a side of either. To me, the only redeeming quality of the potato is its use in gnocchi.

                    Potatoes and rice just seem like bland filler to me, but I do like sweet potatoes.

                    1. re: Humbucker

                      And I am ridiculously more likely to choose an entree if it has fries with that. I will ask can you substitute?

                      My mom actually did nice twice fried in a frying pan. I usually do a James Beard recipe of German fried potatoes in butter. I'm not a chef though, so the trying to flip those tater sticks frustrates me.

                      Nothing but salt on my fries. Well, parsley is okay. or chives in mashed is yum. but it is all about the salt craving. Oh, there is a new Star Trek movie coming out?

                  2. re: Buffalogal

                    Jacques Pepin has a video of pommes souffle that's good. He shows how difficult they are.

                    In here:

                    The waste factor of non-puffers is high, success is totally dependent on the water concentration in the potato, and you've got to eat them almost immediately to get the full benefit. As a business with pulses of customers, it would be a tough gig compared to selling tons of twice-cooked fries.

                    Every tater lover should try to make souffles at least once. Just have a casserole dish lined up to use the discards for scalloped potatoes.

                    1. re: Buffalogal

                      Don't look to hard, you won't find them in "Mastering..."! I just drove myself crazy for about an hour. I was utterly convinced that I first read of this dish in my mother's copy of Mastering, and just spent way too long trying to find it there, in either volume. I even called my mother to see if it existed in her editions which were published in the '70s (perhaps it got removed in later editions), to no avail!

                      Because I know I first attempted (and probably failed) pommes souffles in my mother's kitchen as a teenager I knew my source for the recipe had to predate the interwebs, and was almost certainly from either Mastering Vol. I or Vol. II or Joy of Cooking.

                      Turns out it was Joy of Cooking, not mastering. My assumption that it was Julia's recipe was because I remember it being incredibly thorough, discussing all the complicated nuance of making them-- even going so far as to include a short history on the origins of the dish (supposedly Louis XIV's chef in a panic).

                      So, after an hour of thinking I'd gone daft, (plus the frantic call to my mother), I strongly recommend that you (and other folks) try the recipe from Joy. It is helpful and detailed, and yet another reminder why "Mastering" and "Joy" remain the only "must have" cookbooks.

                    2. re: cayjohan

                      Tried. Failed. Tried again. Failed. Tried again. Failed again.

                      However, even the duds taste pretty good, just not ethereal. I sliced them on a mandoline, and I thought I had the oil right, but maybe I was too impatient on the first fry, or used the wrong type of potatoes, or perhaps I totally lack kitchen mojo.