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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 rule...no 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?

              Cay

              1. re: cayjohan

                O boy....so 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:
                    http://www.amazon.com/Julia-Jacques-C...

                    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

                      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.

                  3. Go for it. And think of the fun designing logos and mascot suits (guy in a potato suit) and old style Mr Potato Head stuff to go along with your restaurant.

                    1. Potatoes, those earthy yet heavenly, those bits of mother nature's love, which tastes just as great with a little simple salt, or loaded with half of the refrigerator, which wish so much to be cooked and savoured that they will happily accept whatever vessel you may have.

                      Yes, I do love potatoes ;)

                      1. I Looooove Potatoes. Best mashed have cream cheese mixed in, and best fries are fried in peanut oil.

                        1. I think your memories and imagination are just fine! I often comment to DH that I think potatoes and eggs are the worlds perfect foods. Depending on my mood, bacon may make it my personal food trifecta. Potatoes are delicious in nearly every way if prepared well, skins, mashed, scalloped, fried, anna, roasted, gratin and on and on. Hell, in my profile my guilty pleasure comfort food is Idahoian instant mixed with canned corn ;)

                          The only way I can not abide them is boiled. The chunks are just bland and no matter what they're prepared with, it's still a bite of bland potato w/ "stuff" on it. I have never liked potato salad of any sort because of this, UNTIL after 20 yrs. my MIL pulled out her "famous" salad (that I have somehow never seen or tasted) at the last get together. Lo and behold she is just like me in hating chunks of boiled potato, her secret? She rough mash's the taters after boiling them to death. It was a revelation, I LOVED a potato salad for the first time in my 38 yrs. of life!!! It was a somewhat cohesive mess with the dressing but my god, it WAS cohesive, the potatoes weren't "apart" from the dressing. Lot's of salad in our future!

                          Yes, the potato is a very good thing!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Alicat24

                            A dear friend's mother makes "mashed potato salad" and it is TDF
                            She is originally from Louisiana. I have been eating it for over 30 years.

                          2. mmm taters...

                            while not specific and besides many mentioned already, my food memory is definitely the first new potatoes of the year, purchased from roadside stands, cooked in their skins, with maybe a little butter. Heaven.

                            1. I never met a potato I didn't like, but also I agree that food-linked memories are very powerful. As a child I adored my mother's fried potatoes (bacon grease, electric skillet, thin sliced) to the point of gluttony, and I still remember after being in the hospital for a week with a burst appendix, on a juice and gelatin diet, then coming home and being allowed to EAT - and at one of my first meals, mom made fried potatoes ... BLISS.

                              I think my favorite is 'fried baked potatoes' - leftover baked potatoes sliced and fried with onions and peppers, skin still on.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: occula

                                The only night I ever spent in Alsace was in Colmar in a little restaurant down near the river, very cozy and atmospheric. had a little individual casserole dish of potatoes topped with cheese and bacon that may have been one of the most wonderful things I've eaten in my life. And for the life of me I can't remember the proper name of the dish. Only one of the great potato dishes I've eaten.

                                Those souffle potatoes are a signature dish at Antoine's in New Orleans, BTW.

                                1. re: occula

                                  Our department went to our monthly "lunch together" the other day...one of my co-worker's meals came with home fries which she could not eat because she's on that Results! plan...anyway, she said "free to anyone who wants these" ... well, I did ask her for some but did not eat all of them and they were so good you did not even need ketchup or any other nonsense...you could put an entire loaf of freshly baked bread in front of me OR home fries or some kind of potato...I will take the POTATO, no two ways about it.
                                  Occula, your appendix had actually burst??? May I ask, what were your symptoms? This is weird, I know, but my MIL had one and her sym'tom was "severe pain in down her leg."

                                2. I wonder if you have ever heard of "Thrasher's." You ought to just people-watch here on the Rehoboth boardwalk and see for yourself how beloved those excellent french fries are. If you have a location for your "Pomme Frites" store where people are sight-seeing and strolling, you will do very well.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Lewes17266

                                    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...
                                    Buffalogal, I just found this article. It is old but just as accurate today.

                                  2. i think the potato is a briliant creation. i wish you success with your pommes frites business. if i lived in buffalo, i'd eat there! (oh, and please include aioli in your toppings -- dippings? -- menu).

                                    i've been reading about "potato valley" restaurant (cafe? take-out joint?) here in d.c. http://www.potatovalley.net/

                                    your "potato po-tah-to" (;-)) place could also do baked potatoes, loaded with different toppings.

                                    1. I have everyone in my life trained to give me their potato skins when we eat together.