After an interesting seminar on potatoes organized by the Western Swedish Academy of Gastronomy, Sweden, we decided to do some research on our own …
Photo © J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010
There are so many basic things in life that one take as given, that one should just “know”. Like walk, know that water is wet and that the sun is warm, and in the western hemisphere – how to cook potatoes.
Eventually when you look deeper into things you might find that it is not that easy at all. At a recent restaurant professionals’ seminar on potatoes which I attended mostly out of curiosity, we eventually brought home a whole box of a variety called Inova. An early winter, firm cooking potato that in the testing sessions just struck me as unusually good tasting, with a full, sweet round and lacking a better word, “buttery” flavor.
Then we set out to try out how this Inova would turn out in home cooking. When talking to the “potato guru” Dan Berntsson, we had felt that the Inova despite being a fairly firm cooking kind, might be just the right thing for a gratin, which according to regular wisdom instead should be made from a soft boiling variety such as a King Edward VII.
Inova potatoes as the came in the box.
The Inova is a firm cooking, early winter variety with a sweet flavour and yellow inside that was remarkably crisp to cut and handle. The potatoes as they came in the box was not too good looking with lots of handling damages. It was thus not too tempting to keep the peel on which is so much favoured by chefs of the profession. However aware I am of the fact that a lot of the vitamins is in fact in the peel, I don’t feel too convinced that the decision to serve a potato with its peel on is not in fact a financial consideration rather than about my health. A quick test revealed that by home peeling 200 grams out of 950 is wasted and even I can see that this is a lot if you are dealing with hundreds of portions every day.
All things considered, we did away with the peel from our test batch and sliced them up in 3 mm slices, to go about making a gratin.
The Inova felt remarkable crisp to peel, cut and handle.
First step was to pre-boil the potato slices to about half done. After quite a while in warm and boiling water, after which for example a King Edward would have gone completely mush, the Inova slices turned out softened but still perfectly firm.
Inova slices perfectly firm after pre-boiling.
I then put the gratin together with a few slices of red onion, two crushed garlic cloves, salt, black pepper and about half and half milk and cream. The whole was topped off with about one cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano and then baked for about 40 minutes in 200 centigrade.
The gratin topped off with about one cup of shredded shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano.
For the test we did needed something to go with the gratin so I settled for some beef, fried in butter and black pepper.
Beef such as this are usually tough if not cured for weeks. The variety most of the time met with in the food stores are best off rare to medium rare and fried for as short time as possible. Some shredded parsley adds to the dish.
On the side I prepared a mushroom sauce with porcini, calf broth, green pepper and red wine which turned out reasonable well, so I will give the details here for inspiration and your own experiments.
About 30 grams of dried porcini equals about 250 grams of fresh.
30 grams of dried porcino (Karl Johan) equalling 250 gram of fresh.
1 shallot or a quarter of a red onion, diced
1-2 tbs butter
fry until soft.
Add 3 dl of calf stock
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
½ tbs green pepper, crushed
Dash of cream to soften out flavour and capture the mushroom flavour.
2-3 tsb red wine q.s.
You might want to leave out the onion, and go easy on the balsamic. However this should turn out to be a dark, nice and solid, a bit foresty sauce that goes very well with beef.
We actually don’t need to chop up the mushroom in smaller pieces then they come in. Larger pieces might look nice on the dish if you don’t mind that the servings will look somewhat different.
All in all I feel that this turned out to be about the best gratin I have had so far. The texture was firm and nice and the slices baked brown with the cheese and cream were still firm and crisp. And the flavour of the Inova which was the point with it all, was still there.
From this experience I was even further convinced that however careful you ever try to follow the recipes of the masters and recreate what they are doing, this is not enough. The choice and selection of the ingredients is what decides what you can cook and how this turns out, more than anything else. If this is true for such a simple thing as a potato, how true isn’t it for everything else.