For 22 weeks, I got up early on Saturdays to drag myself and about 15 pounds of kitchen tools into the city to attend the French Culinary Institute. I made well over 100 different classic French dishes from souflees to pot au feu. The one dish I get asked to make time and again, pommes darphin.
I must admit, it has become one of my favorite potato dishes. Its crunchy on the outside while creamy on the inside nature makes it irresistible. Adding to its beauty is the fact you can make it ahead of time and reheat it later without loosing the crisp exterior. It is light on ingredients but pretty heavy on technique. It might take a few tries to get it correct, but at least you can eat the mistakes.
For this dish you will need the following:
- Three medium russet potatoes
- Vegetable oil, preferably canola or grapeseed oil to withstand the high heat
- One table spoon of butter, cut into four equal pats
- An 8" skillet
- Slotted turner or other fairly long utensil for flipping
- Mandolin or great knife skills
Place the potatoes in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the water. This step is crucial! You want to remove moisture but keep the starch so the potatoes will stick together in a cake. Place potatoes in bowl and season.
Preheat skillet over high heat. Put enough oil into the pan to totally coat the bottom. You are not looking to deep fry, but a pool of oil about 1mm deep or so is ideal
Heat the oil until wisps of smoke appear. You want the pan screeching hot to avoid sticking.
Place the potatoes in the pan and form into a round cake. Press down firmly to get the potatoes to adhere.
When the bottom is golden brown, flip the cake. Here is where the small skillet and long turner come into play.
Turn down the flame to medium and place one pat of butter at 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock. Cook until the bottom is brown and the center is cooked through.
If not serving immediately, place on a cooling rack. Reheat in an oven to serve.
This may take a few trial runs to get it right. If the potatoes did not stick together, they were still too wet or were cut to large. You really need to get most of the moisture out of the spuds.
When you do get this right, it is well worth the effort.