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Ellen’s Kitchen & Garden

One potato, two potato, three potato, four

Posted Tuesday,
January 17, 2012
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By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

That was a favorite game of mine when I was a little girl. I always liked it when I was “it”. One hand behind my back as I’d go around and tap the fists of other players with mine and then tap my chin with my one free hand. Tapping your chin was what I thought was so cool. It’s amusing now to think about the silly things that made us happy as children.

Potatoes - who ever knew not using the “correct” potato could ruin a recipe? Not that I have yet, but thought you should be aware of the possibility. Some potatoes are better for baking and frying while others are better for boiling and mashing. A website that I've found helpful and differentiates potato types is The Cook's Thesaurus.

Years ago I had dinner at my friend Sally Taylor's, and she served, along with a rack of lamb, the most beautiful and elegant potato dish I had ever seen. It also was the best I had ever eaten. Surely because it was so beautifully done, I thought it would be too difficult and time consuming, but not the case.

Sally and I have been friends all of our lives and have a great time whenever we get in the kitchen together. I called her last week for the potato recipe and described it to her as a very elegant dish, one that would impress just about everyone. After my brief description, she recited the recipe as if it were something she made on a regular basis.

While sharing the ingredients, Sally was very specific about using red potatoes, which got me thinking about potatoes. Who am I to change what I remembered as the best potato dish I had ever had in my life?

It is called Pommes Anna. The recipe was created for Napoleon III, by chef Adolfe Duglere and he named it in honor of the actress Anna Damiens.

Pommes Anna a la Sally Taylor
Serves 6-8

6 red potatoes (each about 2 ½ to 3 inches in diameter)
1 white onion
1 cup (or 4 ounces) of grated white cheddar cheese
¼ to ½ cup of melted butter

Preheat your oven to 400°.

Peel the potatoes and slice as thinly as possible. If you have a mandoline this is the perfect use for it. The potatoes will slice uniformly and very quickly. If not, with a very sharp knife slice the potatoes approximately 1/8 inch thick. Place the sliced potatoes in cold water to rinse off the starch and then drain and pat them dry.

Peel and slice the onion the same way.

Grease the bottom of a 9 ½ -inch baking dish (pie or quiche pan) with butter. Then place a layer of potatoes in the bottom. Then layer the onions and cheese sparingly and lightly drizzle the melted butter. Season with salt and pepper and the repeat two or three more times. Take a sheet of aluminum foil and press the potatoes down. (At this point you can stop and then bake it an hour before you plan to serve it. I wouldn’t make it more than 6 hours in advance.)

Place the Pommes Anna in the preheated oven and bake for 40-50 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, you will be pleased at how well it turns out.

This side dish goes well with Rack of Lamb, Pork Crown Roast or Filet Mignon.

Mashed Potatoes

The other day my Pilates instructor Susan Koonts and I were talking about recipes and somehow we ended up talking about mashed potatoes. A side dish you would think one could make blind folded. Susan with a big smile on her face was telling me how her mother’s mashed potatoes were perfect every time and so good too. I asked what the secret was and Susan wasn’t quite sure. She said it may have been the order in which ingredients were added or milk versus cream or maybe both but we both agreed that mashed potatoes aren’t as easy as they should be.

My first experience making them I added too much milk, which made them gray and pasty. I threw them out and started over again. The second time they were just okay, still too much milk but maybe the wrong potato. The third time, years later and after a lot of research, was the charm!

Serves 6-8

2 pounds of white or russet potatoes
salt for water
1 stick of melted butter
¾ teaspoon of salt
¼ cup of milk
¼ of heavy cream
Fresh parsley, chopped

Place the potatoes in a large pot covered with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then over a medium heat cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. You’ll want to keep an eye on them, so as not to overcook. Once they’re tender, drain the potatoes, peel and put back into the pot. Sprinkle with salt and then mash them with a potato masher. With an electric beater on low speed blend in the melted butter and then add the milk and cream. At this point check the potatoes for the consistency you prefer. I like mine on the thicker or heavier side, but if you prefer lighter mashed potatoes add a little more cream and milk, maybe up to another quarter cup of liquid.

Place in a serving dish and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley. Mashed potatoes go with just about any entrée, but are especially good with meatloaf.
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