After a year long hiatus from doing my home tasting menus, I got the urge to a do a new one around the humble potato which led to last weekend Potato dinner. We have a total of 7 diners which did slow down the plating, but having done this several times I have gotten much better at managing my time and we were done with the 7 savory courses in just under 3.5 hours despite this meal including some fairly complex dishes as well as one multi-item course.
Hot Potato Cold Potato is a classic Alinea appetizer that has a hot ball of butter poached potato that is dropped into a cold potato soup made with truffle juice. The recipe itself is fairly straightforward (from the Alinea book) but the plating is quite complex with custom skewers being pushed through parrafin bowls that are hand made by the chefs. I replaced that with a simple glass and martini pick which did create some plating challenges. It was quite hard to keep small blocks of butter and parmesan from disintegrating on the picks thicker and in the end I think the parmesan block was a little too large. Additionally since I had to plate 7 skewers before serving the potato cooled a bit by the time I got them to the table and it was more of warm potato cold potato. There was a great truffle flavour from the soup and a textured mouth feel from the parmesan and butter. We didnt have as much of a temperature difference and that was down to me not practicing the dish before hand.
Potatoes are a key ingredient in most indian street food which led to this chaat course consisting of pani puri, dahi papdi and samosa. That said we intentionally made all three without any potatoes in them. The pani puri consisted of a spherified pani with a drop of tamarind sauce and some boodi for crunch and the dahi papdi had a sphere of yogurt on a regular papdi with tamarind sauce, mint chutney and chaat masala.
This first two items were things I had made before in my Spheres and Circle dinner so Nithya made the chaat course a trio by creating this mac and cheese samosa with indian spices in the mac n cheese to give flavours reminiscent of the traditional potato filling. This was quite a successful course and came together quite well for plating and theme.
Next we continue the potato-less potato dish theme by making a liquid parmesan gnocchi in a clear mushroom broth. This was a direct implementation of the recipe from molecularrecipes.com and is one of the most complex dishes I have made to date. The work was definitely worth is as the liquid parmesan spheres were spectacular and bursting with the most incredible cheesy flavour. The cryofiltration created a wonderfully clear broth with earth mushroom goodness that complemented the cheese and created a dish that I would be happy to eat at any Michelin starred restaurant.
We then took a drinks break with a whiskey infused with sweet potato and cinnamon. Personally I am not much of a whiskey fan and while the alcohol flavour did change, I fould the whiskey taste to be overpowering. I’ll mark this one down as a fail and if I ever try it again will definitely dilute the raw alcohol with something else.
We get back to the food with a Japchae which is a korean dish made of sweet potato starch noodles. It is usually served as a side dish but I made a mushroom and toasted sesame version as a main course instead. I really liked the plating of the dark noodles in the white bowl with the veggies for a bit of colour.
Next up was one my old favourites with a twist. I have made potatoes and leeks several times and over time had settled on the version with sous vide potatoes (roasted), sous vide leeks (torched) and romesco as the ideal version of the dish. But since this was going to be a potato dinner I wanted to do something to change up the potatoes and decided to go with fondant potatoes cooked to look like scallops instead. It is a classic european dish but there are several conflicting recipes out there and it took some trial and error for me to settle on this recipe that works quite well.
- Cut cylinders of potato that are roughly 1.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches tall. You can do this with a knife but I found it easier to use a cookie cutter. Make sure to use only Yukon Gold potatoes – I tried the same recipe with red potatoes and the texture was awful.
- Add some oil to a pan with at least a 2 inch lip and set it to a high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, put the potatoes with into the pan with the circular side down and season with salt a pepper. Try not to move the potatoes as that will reduce the browning.
- Once the bottoms are well browned (3-5 min), flip the potatoes with tongs and start browning the other side. Add a pat of butter to the top of each potato and some fresh thyme to the pan itself
- Once the potatoes have started browning and the butter is foaming, add about an inch of chicken stock to the pan (cover half to 3 quarters of the potato height) and bring it to a simmer. This is also a good time to pre heat the oven to 425F
- Once the stock is simmering, put the pan in the over for between 30-45 minutes. The potatoes will cook in the chicken stock which will give them an excellent texture and flavour to go with the crisping from the pan.
- Test the potatoes for doneness using a fork and ensure that the stock never runs dry in the pan. Serve immediately or keep warm at 175f in the oven
For the next course I went with a very different take on potatoes and leeks by making Wes Avila’s Sweet Potato Tacos (Amazon Prime Video). There are several different versions of this Guerilla Tacos recipe available online so I combined them up and put my own spin on things.
- Peel sweet potatoes and cut them into 1cm thick slices. Vacuum pack with oil and salt before cooking sous vide at 90C for 45 min
- Clean and cut leeks in half lengthwise before dropping them in a pot of white wine and thyme. Boil for 5 min till the alcohol evaporates and put into the leeks and win broth into a sous vide bag. Cook sous vide at 90C for 30 min (they can be done at the same time as the sweet potatoes
- Once the items are out of the sous vide pan we need to toast them on a pan to caramelize them and get some colour. The sweet potatoes will need a couple of minutes on each size to get a nice brown and release a wonderfull sweet smell
- Chop the leeks into 1cm strips and saute them on the same pan as the sweet potatoes. cook them till they become tender and start browning. You can now put the sweet potatoes and leeks away and warm them up again in time for service
- Toast the corn tortilla in one pan while heating some oxacan cheese in another pan. Once the tortilla is browned, flip it and put it over the golden brown and melted cheese so that the cheese sticks to the tortilla
- Take the tortilla off the pan and flip it again for assemble the tortilla. Add a layer of sweet potatoes followed by a generous helping of the leeks. Next hit the taco with some romesco styles salsa (with extra spice and white vinegar for a kick) before finishing it with some crumbled feta cheese
- Enjoy a fantastic taco
Our final savoury course was a parisienne gnocchi that we have made several times and continued the theme of normally potato based dish being made without potato. Nithy toasted them in butter with some crispy sage for a great flavour to end the mains on.
Nithya went all out on the desert course making 4 different items that the diners could pick and choose from. For the potato theme we had mashed potato truffles and purple potato ice cream, while the traditionalists got to have some cream puffs and salted caramel panna cotta.
And with that the meal was done!