Food Friday: Potatoes à la Lyonnaise


Last weekend I was pleasantly surprised by a new potato recipe I stumbled over on the brilliant Food52 website. I know – what can’t be done to the potato, and what else could we possibly discover? Incroyable! These potatoes were the elegant accompaniment to the nice little filets mignons that Mr. Friday cooked on the grill – spring is coming! The daffodils are up. Never mind that snow – it is melting away as we sit and wait for balmier days.

This is a recipe that I am sure to add to our répertoire. It was multi-stepped, but I expect it will soon evolve into an intuitive recipe – much like mastering the Adobe InDesign program: simple, elegant, instinctive. And it seems easily adaptable. As always, I used what we had on hand, and we did not have sweet little petite potatoes. There were a couple of Russet potatoes lurking in the larder, which I peeled before parboiling. Then I sliced a large, sweet onion. (I try to get Vidalias when they are in season – I expect that I was using something from Peru, so there go all my carbon footprint credits.)

I love a cooking challenge that involves mass quantities of butter. I sautéed the onion slices in 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter, while I was achieving a nice crusty crispy surface on the potatoes with another 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter. I loved having two frying pans going at the same time – it made me feel like a sous chef who has been given a little more responsibility; and it reminded me of dueling banjoes, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and I remembered pushing two small children on swings at the same time…

I did not have a suitably posh French baking dish for the ten minutes the onions and potatoes spent together in the oven. It would have been nice to have a hideously expensive yet, oh, so élégant Staub enamel dish, but I found that the aluminum birthday sheet cake pan worked just as well. And as I was plating in the kitchen, Mr. Friday had no idea that his piping hot, piquant potatoes were cooked in such a pedestrian pan.

A good crispy potato is a culinary achievement. The perfect frite can bring tears of joie. I have been known to embarrass Mr. Friday by sending back soggy French fries – the ones which have been sitting limply under a heating lamp in the restaurant kitchen. I want potatoes that have been snatched out of the blazing hot fat and whisked over to my table tout de suite. The main dish is almost a secondary when the potatoes are transcendent.

And even better news? There were enough potatoes left over to heat up in a little skillet in the morning. It was the perfect Sunday breakfast: homemade biscuits, thick rashers of applewood smoked bacon, and recycled Potatoes Lyonaise. Délicieux.

“It is easy to think of potatoes, and fortunately for men who have not much money it is easy to think of them with a certain safety. Potatoes are one of the last things to disappear, in times of war, which is probably why they should not be forgotten in times of peace.”
― M.F.K. Fisher

About Jean Sanders

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