Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pommes Rissolees (French Browned Potatoes)

Pommes rissolées are a French classic. They are crisp, cube-shaped, pan-fried potatoes flavored with herbs.


Yields: 8 servings
16 Yukon potatoes
1/2 cup duck fat, as needed
6 cloves garlic, halved, lengthwise
2 sprigs French tarragon, finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic chives, finely snipped
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon saffron (optional), finely ground using a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional), as needed
1 teaspoon white pepper (or black pepper), freshly ground
3 teaspoons salt


Parboiling the potatoes (see tips): Wash the potatoes and place them whole in a large pot (no need to peel them). Fill it with cold water until the potatoes are barely covered. It's important to start with cold water so the potatoes cook evenly. Bring to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt and reduce the heat to medium-high (if you cook the potatoes at a roaring boil, they might fall apart). As soon as the water reaches a boil, cook for about 10-12 minutes. Test, using a fork; the potatoes should be slightly tender but still firm. Remove from the pot. Drain the potatoes thoroughly and let them cool a little (do not rinse and let the liquid evaporate). Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle and have dried (with no excess water), remove the skin. Dice them into 1/4-inch cubes.

Browning the potatoes: Preheat the oven to 200°F. Divide the diced potatoes into 4 batches. In a large non-stick pan, melt 2 tablespoons of duck fat. Add half a clove of garlic and the first batch of potatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Slightly cover the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Toss frequently, as soon as one side of the diced potatoes is browned. Gently lift the potatoes using a silicone spatula without applying any pressure so they don't get smashed and remain crispy. Sprinkle the crisp potatoes with a little of the herbs, 1/4 teaspoon of ground saffron, 1/4 of teaspoon of cayenne pepper (if used) and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Add more duck fat if needed. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Toss well until the herbs are stuck to the potatoes. Check for doneness of the potatoes. They should be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Transfer them onto a greased baking pan. Immediately season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt while the potatoes are still glistening. Place the pommes rissolées in the oven while the rest of the batches of potatoes are being browned. Clean the pan with a paper towel. Add more duck fat, flavor the fat with half a clove of garlic and brown the rest of the potatoes until all the ingredients are used. Just before you're ready to serve, sauté the pommes rissolées one more time in the pan.

Transfer to a nice serving platter. Serve hot.

I served them with duck breast, a salad on the side and a garlic chive-flavored goat cheese dip.

Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!


Yukon potatoes are perfect for this dish. The flesh is bright yellow. I added a combination of cayenne pepper abd saffron for a richer color and flavor but you can enhance the color with more paprika if you don't like a spicy kick from the cayenne pepper.

Parboiling means briefly boiling the potatoes. Think "par-tial" boiling = parboiling.

To ensure the crispiness of the potatoes, I cooked them in 4 batches.

While waiting for the potatoes to brown, I usually cover the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil. This step isn't essential but it helps cook the potatoes fast. When the potatoes are browned on one side. Remove the aluminum foil and toss well.

You can cube the potatoes a bit larger, maybe 1/2-inch dice. It might take a little longer for the potatoes to brown and to be fully cooked in the inside.

I remember that you can buy duck fat in France, I'm not quite sure but I would assume that it's available in specialy shops. You can also find duck fat online.

Remove the tarragon leaves from the stems. Hold the top of the stem with one hand and slide the other hand along the stem, pulling the leaves off. Slightly bruise the leaves in a mortar and pestle to release the flavor and make the dish more potent. Finely chop the herbs. Set aside.

You don't have to use these herbs; lemon thyme or marjoram would work great as well.

For the vegetarian version, start browning the potatoes with oil and finish the dish with butter (or vegetable margarine for a vegan version) for a nutty flavor.

While browning the potatoes, check how golden the clove of garlic is and remove it as soon as it's nicely browned to ensure it doesn't burn.
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