Today: The crispiest, creamiest potato around.
And now, we domino them. The word that used to refer merely to a game, a Van Morrison song, and bad pizza is also an uncomplicated-yet-fancy potato technique from revered Argentine chef (and winner of our first Piglet Tournament) Francis Mallmann.
It was sent to me by Food52er mikeficus, whose pitch read as follows: "Simple, elegant, and wonderful. Crisp caramelized edges with soft, chewy centers. Mmmmm."
To look at them, some of you may already be entranced. Others may think that they'd rather leave the potato alone and not prune it like an 80s poodle -- but that's only because they haven't tasted those crisp corners and buttery middles.
This technique makes starchy Russets think they're the creamiest Yukon Golds. It's a little like Jeffrey Steingarten's famous single-layer potato gratin, but pared down to three ingredients and given the Fallingwater treatment. Let us begin.
Here's how you domino a potato:
First make some clarified butter. Which is to say: melt butter down, watch the milk solids clump, and strain them out. Stick the golden remains in the freezer to firm up (you'll see why later). What's left is resistant to burning and won't ruin your potatoes.
Scrub your potatoes. Shear off their sides to make logs shaped a bit like a pack of gum. (In culinary school, you'd be graded on how even your blocks are. Here, no one's watching, and it won't matter.)
(This looks like an unconscionable amount of waste, and it would be, if you were to throw it out. But don't! You can stash those end bits in the fridge in a bowl of water if you don't want to deal with them right away. Later, you can roast them off, in their haphazard state or cubed neatly. Or purée them, or turn them into salad or soup.)
Next, shave the blocks into a shaggy stack of dominoes. It's easiest to use a mandoline, or you can nerd out with your knife skills.
Leave them in a toppled stack and don't put them in water -- the starch will keep your dominoes from sliding about.
I've had the best results by fanning them low like a hand of cards, but other bloggers have managed to fit a lot of dominoes in the pan and stand them up tall. Your call.
Mallmann calls for the butter to be chilled so you can peel off these little curls and smear them around. You could instead just brush it on in melted form, but I like the effect of the slow-melting cold butter. You could also use something like grapeseed oil -- but the problem is it won't taste like butter.
Now salt them up, and roast them to a crisp.
Serve them at your next dinner party, or just when you're in need of comfort. Or when you're feeling bored by winter suppers, and want to make a spectacle of your potato. It won't mind.
Francis Mallmann's Potato Dominoes
Recipe adapted very slightly from Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way (Workman Publishing, 2009)
Serves 2 to 4
4 Idaho potatoes
4 tablespoons chilled clarified butter
Photos by James Ransom
More ways to doll up a potato: