Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pave Potatoes

When I say the photo of Pave Potatoes in Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home, I knew I had to try them.

The recipe is simple in concept, but execution was a little complicated. The ingredients are much like scalloped potatoes, but technique makes the dish.

First, potatoes are sliced thinly and evenly on a mandoline, dropped into a bowl with cream, salt, and pepper, and then trimmed and placed in neat layers into pan with a bit of butter and extra seasoning every few layers...

After I was done, I realized that the tedious potato trimming could have been mostly avoided if I had squared off the potato to begin with. But that's okay. It worked out.

The second odd thing was that the recipe specificed a 9 x 6 1/2 pan that was 3 inches high. And it says that it has to be at least 3 inches high; a shorter pan won't do. I went though my cabinets measuring pans, and the closest I found was a 9 x 5 loaf pan that was a little shorter than 3 inches. I worried that it wouldn't be tall enough, so I didn't peel and slice all the potatoes that I had weighed for the recipe. But it ended up that I had plenty of space, so I peeled and sliced more.

The layered potatoes went into the dish, and they carried most of the cream with them. Hmmmm... what to do with the rest? The recipe didn't say, so I poured that on top of the potatoes.

The pan had been lined with parchment ahead of time, and it's a good thing that was specified, or those potatoes would never have come out of the pan. The hanging flaps of parchment were folded over the potatoes and the pan was covered with foil before it was baked for nearly two hours.

Then it sat for a while, Then it had to be weighted to compress the potatoes, cooled to room temp, then refrigerated. I left the weight (two large cans of tomatoes in another loaf pan) in place until the next day, when I got the potatoes out of the pan, trimmmed the edges and cut them into serving-sized pieces.

Then, some of the sides were browned while others were left naked. It made for an intersting presentation. Everyone liked the potatoes, and the leftovers were great, too. Heck, I could have started the whole process earlier, and re-warmed them for serving. And they're just fine at room temperature. Probably chilled, too, but I didn't try that.

And although the ingredients are so simple - mostly potatoes and cream - they taste like there's something else going on. Cheese? No. Just cream. Just plain potatoes. Nothing sneaky or fancy.

When I was in the midst of trimming potatoes to fit the pan, I thought it was a little but nuts. Afterward, I said that I'd probably never make it again. But now, I have to say that it was worth the effort, and it's given me some interesting ideas for other dishes, when I have the time.