This is a potato preparation not seen much in the US, but it is always present on menus of fancy Anglo-French restaurants. They are perfect cylinders of potato browned very slowly in butter, with stock added repeatedly until they are glazed and full of flavor. Fondant potatoes simultaneously taste of pure potato and of more than potato, and they get very creamy inside. This is a simpler way of cooking them that results in an equally captivating outcome. It takes time and a modicum of attention, but no stock and no lathing.
- Enough potatoes to make approximately 15-16 2 inch tall ’cylinders.’
- 2 tablespoons butter (clarified butter can be used for extra protection against burning)
- salt and pepper
a 9-10 inch heavy-bottomed skillet with a lid
Peel the potatoes and cut off enough at each end that they’ll stand up in the pan and present a nice surface for browning. If you have those elongated “Idaho” russets, do the same but also cut them in half crosswise if they’re really big, getting two barrel-shaped pieces per potato. Rinse and dry them thoroughly
Over medium-low heat, melt two tablespoons of butter in the skillet and add the potatoes, flat surface down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. After a minute or so, turn the heat down to very low and cover. For 40 minutes, baste occasionally with fat from the pan. Under the lid, the potatoes steam and brown at the same time, getting nice and buttery. Turn them, season the second side and steam and baste for another 40 minutes.
If the potatoes seem to be sticking, use a thin-bladed implement to get under them — if you just yank them with a pair of tongs you’ll leave the crust in the pan.
After an hour and 20 minutes, they may be very tender; if they’re not, keep going until they are — it could take another 15 minutes on each side if you keep the heat as low as you should. They should be golden on both flat surfaces. Over ultra-low heat, they can sit on the stove for a while if your timing and the potatoes’ don’t coincide.
The face-up surface will no longer be crisp; remove the lid, turn them one more time and give the softened side a couple of minutes over slightly raised heat. These should not be outright crunchy, more crackling crisp. The crispness won’t last, but that doesn’t matter, because they’re the best thing in the world.
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