You say potato, I say BATTLE POTATO

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First I want to thank clownshoe for this great (and overlooked until now? How?!) ICSA ingredient. Potatoes are so versatile with so many different kinds that I had a torrent of ideas, so I also want to thank clownshoe for the five-dish maximum that saved me from both overextending myself and from succumbing to paralysis by analysis! All that said, here is your menu:

amuse: potato texture trio[edit]

One of the things I love about potatoes is the great range of textures that can be teased out. I knew I definitely wanted to explore this aspect explicitly, and some small starter treats seemed like the perfect context. So here we'll get crunchy, squishy, and something a little different in-between:

   * potato crisp with olive tapenade
   * experiment p37: potato pectin plus persimmon
   * horseradish mini mash with chives

For the potato crisp I start with a really fantastic olive tapenade:


   * 3/4 pound pitted black olives, such as Kalamata, Nicoise, or Gaeta
   * 3 to 4 ounces capers, drained and rinsed
   * 2 anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed and patted dry
   * 2 cloves garlic, minced
   * 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
   * 1 bay leaf, finely chopped
   * 5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
   * 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
   * 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
   * 1/2 lemon, juiced
   * 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
   * 1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
   * 1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil


Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine well, then allow to process until mixture is coarsely pureed. Taste for seasoning.

For the potatoes, we simply sliced them thin then let them dry briefly in between some paper towels. Then applied a little oil, salt, pepper, and paprika, and baked in the oven until crispy.

Here we see the evolution of both the tapenade and the crisps:

And a close up of the final product:

These were super-crispy and held up to the topping without any problem, delivering a single tasty package to waiting mouths!

For the next bite, I wanted to use my friends new sous-vide machine to try and create something a little different. A little research online leads to the knowledge that starch breaks down around 78C, while plant pectins don't break down until around 85C. So with controlled cooking of vegetables around 83C it's possible to reach a really fantastic texture that's yielding, but not quite crispy, and not quite soft, either.

I wanted to pair this with a thick, sweet sauce. I had thought plums, but they are not in season. Happily the market had some persimmons:


   * persimmons
   * orange juice
   * sugar
   * star anis
   * ginger to taste

Simmer for about 1 hour. Remove the star anis and puree. Reduce further until desired consistency.

I tried to add the star anise in the shot for artistic effect, but alas it looks more like I am about to puree some hapless spider:

For the potatoes, they were simply diced into small cubes, and tossed in a vacuum bag with some irish butter, and immersed in the water bath at 83C for a few hours:

Pile the result on a small spoon and top with the sauce.

These were really great! Apart from the wonderful uniform texture, the best thing about this was the taste: there was an overwhelming, unmistakable potato-ness distilled into these litle cubes, and the earthy flavor complemented the not-too-sweet persimmon. The only problem was a logistics one, between the drive over from my friends house and actually serving dinner, they were a little colder than I'd have liked. Ideally they would come right out of the sous-vide pouch and straight onto the spoon.

Lastly I wanted to present the softer side of potatoes, so I made a mini version of some mashers we like to make fairly frequently. The secret ingredient here is fresh grated horseradish root, which really makes mashed potatoes a brilliant thing!


   * potato
   * fresh horeseradish, grated
   * heavy cream
   * butter
   * salt, pepper
   * chives

Somehow I forgot to get any real pics of the prep work, but then again, it's mashed potatoes! I won't bother with measures, either, everyone likes their own brand of mashed potatoes, besides, you guys know how this works:

vichyssoise with roasted garlic and prosciutto[edit]

All three presented together, in a shot that should have really been stopped down more, ready to start the meal:

I definitely wanted a soup. Whether chunky or pureed, potatoes can add great flavor and texture and richness to soups. It took a while to decide, but eventually I settled on a smooth soup:


   * 3 heads of garlic
   * 1 cup chicken stock
   * several sprigs rosemary and thyme
   * 2 tbsp butter
   * 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and coarsely chopped
   * 1 yellow onion, diced
   * 3/4 cup dry white wine
   * 8 small white potatoes, peeled and diced
   * 6 cups chicken stock
   * 1 teaspoon salt
   * 1/2 teaspoon pepper
   * 8 fresh sage leaves
   * 3 cups half and half
   * prosciutto


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the tops off the garlic heads, and place inside a small casserole with 1 cup chicken stock, rosemary, and thyme. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 90 minutes. Remove from oven. When cooled, squeeze the soft garlic into a bowl.

Place the prosciutto on a cookie rack over a baking tray, and cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, until crispy. Remove to a plate to cool, and then chop into pieces.

Melt butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Add leek and onion and saute for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add wine and cook for two more minutes. Add the potatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 40 minutes. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and sage. Let the soup cool. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. To serve, strain the soup into bowls and top with crisped prosciutto bits.

Here's a montage of prep work. The first and last photos are the roasted garlic start and finish:

Broke out my tokina wide angle in order to get the liquids shot above, and also this in-pot-shot of the vegetables cooking:

A little closer to finish, with the potatoes just added:

Add here are some of the suporting stars as well: prosciutto, fresh sage, and cream going in the soup.

I know vichyssoise is often served cold but I am just not a fan of chilled soups, plus it was 34F outside. In this case I think everything turned out fantastic, the warm flavors of the soup all came together nicely, and the crispy prosciutto added both texture and flavors that really took this to a new level. Verdict: would not change a thing!

yukon gold potato gnocchi with beet-merlot reduction, roasted beets, and walnuts[edit]

The next dish I have made a few times in the past. It is one of my favorite recipes from the vegan Millenium Cookbook. Back when I was vegetarian this was my go-to book for fancy entertaining and even though I have become a raging carnivore, it's still nice to go back to my old favorites. Beware the wall of text below, this recipe is a beast:

Gnocchi Ingredients

   * 6 large yukon potatoes
   * 1 russet potato
   * 2/3 cp unbleached flour
   * 1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. Prick the skin of the potatoes with a fork and bake for 40 minutes or until tender. Let cool to room temperature. Scrape the potato flesh into a bowl and mash. Add flour and salt. Knead for 2-3 minutes to for a soft dough, adding more flour if the dough is sticky. Cut the dough into four parts and roll each into a 1-inch thick rope. Cut each rope into 1/2-inch long segments. Pinch the middle and sides of each dough piece. Freeze the gnocchi for at least 1 hour.

Roasted Beets Ingredients

   * 4 small red beets, peeled and quartered
   * 4 small Chiogga beets, peeled and quartered
   * 2 tsp canola oil
   * 1/3 chicken stock
   * 1/4 tsp allspice
   * 1/4 tsp clove
   * 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and place on a roasting pan. Bade for 25 minutes or until the beets are just tender. Remove from heat.

Beet-Merlot Reduction Ingredients

   * 1 tsp olive oil
   * 6 shallots, halved
   * 1 red beet, peeled and quartered
   * 1 thyme sprig
   * 1/2 rosemary sprig
   * 1/2 tsp salt
   * 2 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms
   * 2 cups mushroom stock
   * 2 cups merlot
   * 1/4 cup dried cherries
   * 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
   * 2 tsp arrowroot, dissolved in 2tbsp water
   * fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add shallots and saute for 10 minutes, until lightly caramelized Add the beet, thyme, rosemary, salt, and porcini and saute for 1 minute. Add the stock and wine. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until reduced by one-half. Stain the mixture into another pan, add the cherries, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until reduced by one-third. Add vinegar and whisk in the arrowroot slurry. Add salt and peper to taste. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Garnish Ingredients

   * 2 tbsp olive oil
   * 2 cloves garlic, minced
   * 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsely
   * 6 tbsp chopped walnuts, toasted
   * 6 tsp tarragon oil (1/2 tarragon bunch, 1/4 cup olive and grapeseed oil)
   * 1 tsbp green peppercorns in brine

Bring salted water to a boil. Add a batch of gnocchi to the watter. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the gnocchi float to the surface. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. Toss with olive oil to prevent sticking. Repeat for remaining batches. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add gnocchi and saute, shaking the pan to prevent sticking, for 2 minutes until the gnocchi start to brown. Remove from head and toss with parsely.

Serve each plate with 1/4 cup reduction, 6-8 beet segments. Garnish with 1 tbsp walnuts, 1/2 tsp peppercorns, and 1 tsp tarragon oil.

The tarragon oil is easy to make lets just get it out of the way. This stuff is crazy tasty for how simple it is:

And now a few more cooking progression sequences. First we see the essential potatoes, as they get ready to be pastafied:

Next we see what happens to the beets as we go along:

Lastly some prep for the beet-berlot reduction

It's time to make the gnocchi!! A little flour and water and salt and we turn our potatoes into a dough-ball, then dough-cylinders then little tasty bits of pasta:

A single plate served, with some messy plating I forgot to clean up:

And a nice wide open shot for some selective focus including more plates:

I love this dish, but I must be honest, this was not my very-best stab at it. The flavors were all great, no complaints there! No, the fault lay with the textures. The beets were uneven (ranging from "too soft" to "too hard"—at least that guarantees a few "just right" somewhere in between!) Also the gnocchi were a little too soft, not sure what happened there. Even though it didn't quite hit the perfect mark, it was still very enjoyable and there were no leftovers!

creamy potato puree with duck confit and red fingerlings over greens[edit]

I've been eating more duck lately. It seemed to me the super-richnesss of duck could be a great complement to potatoes.

First I did a little research on duck confit, after which I was utterly, completely sold on this plan:

Now, as much as the idea of cooking things in quarts and quarts of rendered duck fat utterly and completely turns me on, I figured there had to be a cheaper way. So, my friend's sous-vide contraption comes to the rescue, and we manage to pull this off with just about one cup of duck fat!


   * salt
   * bay leaf
   * shallot
   * garlic
   * thyme
   * quatre-épice (peppercorns, cloves, nutmeg, ginger)
   * duck legs
   * rendered duck fat
   * garlic
   * cloves
   * potatoes
   * heavy cream
   * butter
   * toasted caraway seeds


First we have the dry marinade: galic, bay leaf, salt, and the quatre épice:

Next it's time to take apart a duck. (Did I mention I was vegetarian for twelve years?) In the last shot you can see the remnants of the duck in a stock I decided to start, since I also had a rabbit carcass in the freezer I needed to use.

Finished with the dry rub, ready to go in the fridge for a few days:

Meanwhile the stock is still bubbling... we're out of chronological order here since some of this went into the soup above:

After two days in the fridge:

Ready to take the plunge! These get cooked in the water at a balmy 180F for almost six hours!

Meanwhile we have some creamy taters to attend to. Also the caraway seeds that will go into them, getting toasted:

And now the surprise hit of this dish! I occurred to me late that there might not be enough potato content, so I improvised some crispy sauteed fingerlings to go along. Just cut tiny cubes then cooked them in a bit of duck fat with salt and rosemary. These were amazingly good! Eventually I had to hide them because folks were just eating them like candy and I needed to keep a few for the plates!

Minutes before serving, we take the duck out of the water and crisp the skin in a skillet:

And finally the fruits of all our labors:

I could not have been happier with this dish. It was so good, we are making it again this weekend!

sweet potato "ice cream" tower with lemon anglaise[edit]

And dessert, we gotta have dessert, so here it is!


   * 1 cup milk
   * 1 cup coconut milk
   * 1/4 cup light agave nectar
   * grated zest of one lemon
   * 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
   * 1/4 tsp lemon extract
   * 2 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
   * 1 1/2 tsp arrowroot
   * pinch turmeric
   * pinch salt


Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan until arrowroot is dissolved. Place over medium heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. The mixture does not need to boil. Remove from heat and let lemon zest steep for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Let cool, uncovered, in the refrigerator.

Here is pretty much everything laid out before going into the pot:


   * garnet orange sweet potato
   * okinawa purple sweet potato
   * coconut cream
   * cinnamon
   * fresh ginger, finely grated
   * sugar
   * butter
   * almond meal
   * flour


The directions are really quite simple. Steam or boil the sweet potatoes until tender. Mash each kind separately with ample coconut cream, adding cinnamon to one bowl, and ginger to the other. For the crust, mix together butter, flour and almond meal into a very coarse dough. Line some metal cylinders with wax paper and place a thin layer of dough at the bottom. Fill half the remaining space with one color of sweet potato and the reast with the other. Leave in the freezer until solid but still slightly soft. Place desserts on individual plates, and remove cylinders and wax paper. Pour lemon anglaise around the base.

Here are some photos from the prep work, that last right before they went into the freezer:

And the result! You can see I was not terribly careful about making a smooth boundary between the two colors, I like the "rough" look. The flavors were really nice together and the fat in the coconut cream did a great job of keeping everything from freezing rock solid. The creamy lemon sauce added just a little bite to the sweetness, and the dough just a little crunch. This is definitely a concept I think I might do some iterations on.

And that's it! The starters, gnocchi, and dessert were all served as part of one meal, the duck and the soup were made on different days. All in all it made for some great eating over the holidays, thanks again clownshoe!