Monday, February 10, 2014

Fondant Potatoes, Squared

Potatoes with a crisp, seasoned exterior baked and simmered in a sauce of broth, butter, and fresh herbs.

Traditionally round, I squared my potatoes which created more surface areas to brown.
And I just like the "techy" look of it.

The lemon zest complements the chili and thyme.

"Fondant" simply means to cook in a sauce. Fondant potatoes are popular in Europe, but not so much here in the States. Not sure why. Traditionally, they are round or barrel shaped and cooked with some chicken stock and some thyme sprigs, as in the photo below. They were good but I felt they were missing something.

By squaring the potato, I created more surface areas to brown. I ramped up the sprigs of thyme, used beef stock instead of chicken, added a sprinkle of chili powder, smoked paprika and, at the end, added two zests of lemon to the hot "fondant" for just a hint of flavor. As the Brits would say, "Scrummy!" This was a meal in itself. But paired with steak or lamb, they would be both delicious. And they make such a great presentation.

You could also use some fresh rosemary and a clove or two of smashed garlic (if using fresh garlic, omit the garlic powder below). Potatoes take a lot of seasoning and are quite forgiving that way.

This is more of a procedure than a recipe. You will need a heavy pan, such as a cast-iron skillet. Use Russet potatoes.

  • 2 Russet potatoes, uniform in shape,
  • Dry Seasonings: Kosher salt, pepper, seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika
  • Fresh thyme--at least one dozen sprigs plus more for brushing
  • 2 fresh lemon peels
  • Peanut oil or any oil that stands up to high heat
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • Beef stock/broth

Heat oven to 375 F. degrees.

Cut off ends of potato and discard. Cut each potato into an oblong. Cut each potato in half for a total of four squares. Soak potatoes in a bowl of cold water to get rid of any excess starch or run under cold water.

Cubes are about two inches long but not quite as thick.
It will depend on your potatoes. 

On a plate, mix your dry spices except for chili powder and smoked paprika. How much?  Use this as a guide. If you have one teaspoon salt, use half as much pepper, seasoned salt and onion powder. Than half as much of that for the garlic powder--so you have a ratio of 1 to 1/2 to 1/4.  Go easy on the garlic powder. You may skip the garlic powder and add a garlic clove to to fondant before baking. I prefer the garlic powder.

Dry potatoes well. Roll in seasoned mixture.

Heat a heavy pan over medium heat. When hot, add peanut oil, about a good 1/4 inch. When it shimmers, carefully (there will be splattering) add the potatoes and begin to brown on all sides, adjusting heat as necessary.

Remove oil. Sprinkle with chili powder and just a hint of the smoked paprika. Add a good 2-3 tablespoons fresh butter. When foaming stops, add fresh thyme sprigs. They will sizzle. (During baking, the leaves will fall away from the stems.) Add beef broth to about 1/3 the height of the potatoes, not more than that.

Place in hot oven and bake 20-30 minutes, without turning, until a sharp knife inserted in center goes in easily. During baking, add more butter/broth if necessary. You don't want it to dry out and you want to be sure to have a lovely "fondant" or seasoned sauce for serving. As the potatoes bake, the lower portion will absorb the sauce while the top and sides will crisp.

When done, remove from oven. Remove the bare stems from the thyme. Using several fresh thyme sprigs as a "brush," baste the potatoes with the sauce in the pan. 

Add the two strips of lemon zest. Allow these to cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream, if desired, and ample drizzles from the sauce.

Oh, yea!

Notes: I baked mine in my Breville countertop convection oven at 375 F. degrees. They were done in about 20 minutes. 

If you want round potatoes, cut off ends and peel the potato until a neat cylinder shape is achieved. Cut each cylinder in half. Traditionally, the edge of the top is removed to prevent burning. When browning, you only sear the top and the bottom, not the sides.

Thanks to "Steve's Cooking" over at YouTube for posting a great video about these potatoes.