You’ve had potatoes fried, baked, mashed or stewed; now try them boiledBobby R. Presents, Bottom Highlights Thursday, June 16th, 2011
I think it is safe to assume that most of us have been brought up on the potato: French fried, baked, mashed, stewed or gratinéed, its versatility is apparent while lending nutritional components to our daily recommended requirements.
But which potato to choose from the wide assortment available in today’s produce section? Almost all available lend themselves nicely to boiling which is the focus of this week’s column.
I think the boiled potato is often overlooked because, at first glance, it appears to be unflavored, unexciting and otherwise undesirable – yet many, very flavorful, uses are available. Boiling the potato in overly salted water or using chicken stock infuses the potatoes with more flavors. If you don’t want to waste the stock, remove the boiled potatoes and reserve the liquid to make a potato soup as described in the recipe included. I think this is a really great kitchen time saver because the potatoes first boiled are reserved for daily use while the soup can be made and then frozen for later.
My choice of potato is usually the red-skinned or Yukon Gold. During this period of late spring/early summer, new (baby) varieties of both types should be available. Not to be confused with fingerling potatoes, which are heirloom varieties, bred to be very small when full grown. Also available in specialty food and farmer’s markets are the purple or blue potatoes. These act as a great addition of color (not to mention conversation piece) while imparting the same cooking characteristics of its white-fleshed cousin.
So now what are we going to do with the boiled potato? The most common application would be the potato salad, which although delicious, has been done to death – so I will not go into detail here. Another place for the inclusion of a boiled potato is the salad. Salade Niçoise (pronounced knee-swaz) is probably the most famous, containing boiled potato and egg along with haricot verts (baby green beans), tomato, olives, tuna and the occasional anchovy. I include boiled red or new potatoes in a spinach salad that I toss in champagne vinaigrette with roasted red pepper, raw red onion, bacon pieces, quarters of boiled egg and top with slices of rare beef.
Another method I have employed to the boiled potato is squishing it down and further roasting it with butter, olive oil and herbs, served as a side in lieu of mashed or baked. I use new Yukon Gold potatoes that are no greater than the size of your palm and boil them in chicken stock (reserved for the vichyssoise recipe) until they are just fork tender, which takes about 15-20 minutes on a high boil.
Once they are boiled, I drain and cool the potatoes before squishing them down with my palm on an oiled and salted sheet pan. I then paint the tops of the potatoes with an oil and melted butter mixture, sprinkle them with herbs and bake in a 450-degree oven for 20 minutes. The use of butter gives them a golden brown color and their texture is a nice hybrid between the mashed and roasted preparations.
So now whether red-skinned, yellow, baby or purple, we have the boiled potato on our tables in one form or another. Diversity paralleled only by its versatility of preparation and applied technique. The only thing left to do is present your final dish and enjoy.
This traditional cold potato soup is very easy to prepare and is a nice starter for a warm summer night dinner. It is not the most low calorie item so serve conservative portions since we are all trying to maintain our bathing suit figures. The inclusion of fennel adds some sophistication to the flavor without changing the stark color that I find beautiful served in a dark bowl and garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and a scant sprinkle of parsley.
This recipe will serve eight people.
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (about three)
3 cups thinly sliced onions (two large)
4 cups chicken stock
1 pound of white potatoes cubed to 1⁄2 inch squares
2 cups of half and half
Salt and white pepper to taste
Freshly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons of Pernod (optional)
In a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the foam has subsided, add in the fennel bulb and the onions. Sauté until the fennel is tender and the onions have become translucent, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat so that the contents do not brown (about 15 minutes). Add in the chicken stock and potatoes. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and allow to cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender.
Remove from the heat and puree with an immersion blender or in batches using a counter blender. For a thinner soup, add in cold half and half. For a thicker soup, heat the half and half to a simmer before adding to the soup, return to heat and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
Chill the soup uncovered until cold, then season with salt and white pepper to taste (a cold soup will require more seasoning than one served hot).
Optional: Stir in 2 tablespoons of Pernod to spike the soup and add more of an anise flavor before serving. Once spooned into the bowls, add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.
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