Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fancy Po-tah-toes

Did you know that in 28 days, football season will be upon us?  Glory, hallelujah, amen!  Carolina will play their first game of the 2011 season against East Carolina at 7:00 p.m.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the post, mind you.

Anyhow, we wanted sliders for dinner the other night, but we didn't have any sides thought up.  Y'all know I love Fresh Market, so I picked up their paper of weekly specials.  I didn't realize they have recipe suggestions, so when I saw potatoes pan-fried in duck fat I was sold.  I've secretly been itching to have a reason to buy the duck fat they sell.  I know, it might sound gross, but it's really no different than having bacon grease hanging around.  And if you're skeptical about bacon grease, I really can't help you.

When I saw the recipe, it reminded me of a dish I'd had at Stone Balloon Winehouse in Newark, DE.  Their menu constantly changes due to the seasons.  The dish was essentially thick-cut potatoes, pulled pork, teleggio cheese, and creme fraiche.  I only had it once, but I was a fan.  My riff on this dish has bacon instead of pulled pork and gruyere in the place of the taleggio.

Start out by frying three strips of bacon.  This will be our pork flavor.  If you don't have duck fat at your disposal or you just don't want to use it, use the bacon grease to fry the potatoes.  Two birds, one stone.  Or something.

Boil the potatoes in salted water.  Like, really salted.  This is about two pounds of taters.

I recommend a coarse sea salt.

This may not be the prettiest bacon I've ever fried up, but it gets the job done.  I mean, it's going to get crumbled up anyway.

Drain the potatoes when they're fork tender.  They'll look a little muted because the salt attaches itself to the skin.  Yum.

When the taters are cool enough to handle (or at least slice), slice them in half lengthwise and slice again for big wedges that aren't too thick.

Here's where the duck fat makes its grand debut.

Melt it in a pan (preferably non-stick, but what're you gonna do?).

Toss about half the potato slices in the pan and let them get good and brown.

While the potatoes fry up, grate your cheese.  This is about 1 cup of gruyere.  The more the merrier in this case.  Smoked or extra-sharp cheddar would be dandy as well.

When the first leg of taters are done, sprinkle a bit of cheese on top and crumble a slice of bacon.  The cheese will melt a little, and you'll have bacon in the middle too.  I fully believe in layering a dish like this because I hate when the toppings are only on top.  I think the potatoes on bottom should get some of the action too.

When the second half of the taters are fried, pile them on top of the others.  Spread the rest of the cheese on top and crumble the other two slices of bacon.  I stuck these in a warm oven to melt the cheese a little more.

Creme fraiche.  Yummm.  Serve the potatoes with a dollop of this stuff or sour cream if you've got it already.  You could even sprinkle a few green onions on top for color.  Really, the bacon, cheese, and creme fraiche do enough.  What I really love about the duck fat is the earthy taste it imparts to the potatoes.  Duck is a game bird, so the fat has a light gamey taste, hence the earthiness.  It's just a little something special.

I know not everything I do is necessary.  I mean, I could've used the bacon grease and in the future I'll probably try it like that.  I also could've just used regular sour cream.  I think it's worth it to use ingredients that are a variation on the norm every now and then.

Fancy Taters (serves 4)

2 lbs. potatoes
3 strips bacon
3 tbs. duck fat (or reserved bacon grease)
1 c gruyere cheese
Creme fraiche

  • Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender.
  • Fry bacon.  If using bacon grease, reserve for later use.  If using duck fat, discard bacon grease.
  • Slice potatoes in half lengthwise, then into thin wedges.
  • Melt fat in nonstick pan and add half the potatoes.  Fry until crispy and golden.
  • Place on plate and top with 1/3 of the cheese.  Crumble one slice of bacon over potatoes and cheese.
  • Cook the rest of the potatoes and place on top of prepared potatoes.  Top with the rest of the cheese and bacon.
  • Serve with creme fraiche on top.

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