Potatoes Two Ways

by leah

Potato Au Gratin

Hasselback Potatoes

I’ve recently made potatoes in two of my most favourite ways. The two recipes following occupy opposite ends of the potato spectrum. They are very disparate, but equally delicious.¬†We have the crisp baked hasselbacks on one end, and the creamy soft potato au gratin on the other.

These dishes pay credence to the versatility of the humble potato – it’s a staple for a reason. Potatoes fall into two categories – floury and waxy. Generally speaking, the dirt covered potatoes (usually russets) are always going to be floury. There are also a couple of clean pink skinned varieties that are on the floury end of the spectrum. Desiree is one such, and a really good all-rounder. As it is a “washed” variety (ie. grown in clean sand) it can be eaten unpeeled in most dishes. If you’re in doubt, just buy the desiree – they are good potatoes. I find that waxy potatoes are only good for potato salad or boiled with the skin on. For everything else, I like a crumbly floury texture. It just seems more potato-ey to me. Particularly for these dishes. They soak up the flavour of the cream and oil better than the impervious waxies do.

Potato is best when it’s handled simply and cooked with attention to texture. If you really want to enjoy your potato, skip the bacon and the herbs and the mustard and the cheese. Adding one or two flavours to it is best, along with some generous seasoning. Ever had an unsalted french fry? Ew.

PS. Excuse the detailed recipes, what they lack in ingredient lists, they make up with detailed processes to ensure potatoey perfection!


Hasselback Potatoes

Serves 2 as a side dish

  • 2 medium sized floury potatoes
  • Fine salt
  • Delicious oil with a high smoke point. Add a bit of melted butter if the oil you’re using don’t got much flavour. I have been known to use freshly rendered lard or tallow, both end up with delicious results. I am sure chicken fat or duck fat would render the same result. The fat is rather important here as it’s one of only 2 ingredients so it contributes to not only the crispness but also the flavour of the potatoes.

Preheat your oven to 200 Degrees C

Carefully peel your potatoes, and halve them longwise. With a sharp knife, make parallel slashes across the top of the potato, making them as deep as you can without cleaving the potato in two. Salt the potatoes and leave them sit for 5 minutes.If they start to turn brown it means they’ve been refrigerated (hopefully not by you!) so just skip this step in that case.

Very thoroughly dry the potatoes off with a kitchen towel or paper towel. Lay them flat side down on a non-stick metal roasting tray. Metal is important as it aids in the crisping process.

These will stick so if you don’t have teflon as your ally here, lay a sheet of baking paper down first. Now douse the potatoes in oil, making sure to get oil down into the cracks. Salt them generously with sea salt and pop in the oven. Roast until the bottom is crisp (20 minute, give or take) and then flip them over to crisp the top. Pull them out and enjoy the fluffly insides and crunchy french-fry outsides.


Potato Au Gratin

Serves 4 generously as a side dish

  • 5-6 medium floury potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2cm thick.
  • 2 large eschallots, peeled and sliced finely.
  • between 400 and 600ml of whipping cream. You can use thickened cream but you’ll be melting gelatine into your potatoes. As long as you’re ok with that, proceed. As with the hasselbacks, this is a really simple recipe – so go buy some really fancy cream for best flavour.
  • Salt and Pepper

In a glass or ceramic casserole (Pyrex is great) lay carefully a layer of potatoes and a gentle sprinkling of eschallot. Season generously with salt and ground black pepper and drop 1/3 of the cream onto that layer. Repeat until all the potato and shallot are gone. Don’t end with a layer of shallot or you’ll get blackened onionyness on the top.

Bake at 200 degrees C for 1 hour, or until the top is golden and bubbling and a knife stab slips gently through the layers. Leave to sit for 15 minutes (if you can) and it will taste better and not burn your tongue like creamy coloured magma.