Photo: Mikkel Vang
Good morning and Merry Christmas! Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, a holiday morning is an ideal time to indulge in the pleasures of a homemade hearty breakfast. Christmas traditions in our household begin with a big breakfast, and potatoes, eggs, and bacon still reign as the top choices. Even though our girls have become quite proficient with their hash browns, the real family favorite when it comes to potatoes is what is affectionately known as potato gratin, but titled Crispy Oven-Browned Potatoes on gourmet.com.
Think of it as a lazy person’s Pommes Anna, the French buttery potato cake. Instead of carefully layering thin slices of potato with melted butter, you quickly toss the slices with butter in a large bowl, then slide them into a shallow baking dish, and cook the gratin in a hot oven until the potatoes are, indeed, browned and crisp on top. Former Gourmet magazine food editor Melissa Roberts developed this winner of a recipe for the Christmas breakfast menu in the December 2008 issue of Gourmet. In fact, all her recipes for that menu are winners. Thanks to Roberts, we’ll also be making her Maple and Black-Pepper Bacon, as well as her Baked Egg Custard with Gruyere and Chives.
Fortified by the potatoes, eggs, and bacon in our bellies, we have the energy for unwrapping presents, as well as the cleanup afterwards, which is then followed by a long nap before dinner. That means there are only two meals to cook on Christmas Day. Now that’s what I call a gift!
It’s that time of year when menorahs are lit, dreidels are spun, and little sachets of foil-wrapped chocolate gelt are handed out. Hanukkah typically lasts eight days, but Cook Kosher has a recipe for Potato Latkes that will make you want this Hanukkah favorite on your dinner table year-round. These potato latkes emerge from the frying pan golden, crisp, and ready to be topped with a small spoonful of applesauce or good quality crème fraîche. Make a few batches for your upcoming Hanukkah party or as a tasty side dish at the December dinner table.
Duck fat imparts a marvelous richness to everything from pan-fried potatoes to baked goods. Anything cooked with it just seems like a luxury, an indulgence. Whenever I visit my friend in Portland, Maine, we make a point of eating at a restaurant named for this luscious lipid. The menu is a paean to foods prepared with the eponymous ingredient, and we never fail to eat our fill of the excellent Belgian-style fries.
Cooking with duck fat can be daunting, but the effort is worthwhile. You can buy it from a specialty store or render your own at home. The first time I roasted a pair of whole ducks I was amazed by the amount of subcutaneous fat covering the breasts, which were truly well endowed.
You’ll need a large supply of duck fat to make Confit Duck Legs, a recipe calling for 35 ounces. Confit cookery requires that the duck be completely immersed in molten fat. When the dish cools the fat solidifies, preserving the flesh. This yields succulent duck with hints of garlic, nutmeg and thyme. The legs are great straight but best when crowning a cassoulet. Continue reading
Photo: Kemp Minifie
Potato salad is one of those summertime staples that is predictable, but rarely memorable. Yet there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be outstanding every time. Ten tips I’ve gleaned over years of trial and error in the kitchen will make the difference between ho-hum and “Wow, how’d you make this?”
You Say Potato and I Say Waxy:
- Texture is crucial. You want spuds that hold their shape when cooked, delivering a dense, waxy chew. Skip russet (baking) potatoes; they fall apart in a salad.
- My favorites are small white, yellow, or red thin-skinned potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter). And if they’re newly dug, even better!
Keep Their Jackets On:
- Cook the potatoes whole, with their skins intact. By keeping them whole, you retain the natural moisture balance in the potato.
Don’t Skimp on Salt for the Cooking Water:
- This single step will work magic on your salad. Cook potatoes in generously salted water to bring out their wonderfully earthy flavor. You won’t taste the salt; you’ll just taste potatoes to the max. Potatoes cooked in unsalted water and seasoned afterwards will taste of salt, but not of potato.
- Start potatoes in cold water, enough to cover them by about 1½ inches. And use about 1 tablespoon salt for every quart of water. Continue reading
Potatoes are not only a time-tested comfort food staple, but this terrific tuber is also among the most versatile of vegetables. There are countless ways to cook them. Some of our favorites include mashed potatoes, latkes, potatoes au gratin, gnocchi, potato chips, hash browns, baked potatoes, potato salad, and French fries.
What’s your favorite potato preparation?