One of our favorite things about cooking and blogging is that the more you cook, the more you learn. And when you share with others, inspiration and ideas come from all over the place. And that is the story of this dish. We made a pan seared flank steak a few nights ago and wanted a potato dish. We looked at our standard recipes but also looked for something new, and having hosted Mixology Monday this month, we had all sorts of ideas spinning around. But amidst the slight chaos here at the farm, we do have the occasional moment of clarity.
And that moment came from a cocktail recipe and a very pleasant memory. The cocktail recipe was Stir and Strain’s El Jardin de Mi Abuela (a Margarita variant) that included a vanilla salt rim. And that gave us a very pleasant memory. It came from our friend Chad. Chad is a professional chef and in his fine dining days he once served us a langoustine dish with a side of just a few french fries dusted with vanilla salt. The combination of sweet langoustine, potato, salt, fat and vanilla was simply delightful. And the light vanilla aroma was truly memorable. One of our favorite dishes. Ever.
We were not going to make french fries on short notice, but we did want to make a pan-fried fingerling potato recipe we saw at Serious Eats a while ago. That recipe uses duck fat (and that would be excellent), but we only had bacon fat and figured it would work with the recipe and we could add vanilla salt to enhance the dish. The recipe also has a few good pieces of technique, it has you boil the potatoes before slicing and frying them. Similar to how we steam our parsnips before roasting them, the extra cooking before the final roast/fry ensures even cooking. The recipe also has you start your potatoes in cold water and bring them up to heat with the water, again making the cooking more even. This is a fussy step for some potato recipes, but if you want to cook the potatoes twice and have them keep their shape, it makes good sense.
So while this dish does need a few extra steps, everything is very easy. To make the salt you simply split and scrape the tiny beans from a vanilla pod and combine with kosher salt. Mix them together and store in an airtight container with the used vanilla bean. Best to let the salt sit for a few hours so the vanilla aroma gets into the salt. As for the potatoes, you just boil them, then cool and slice them in half and then pan fry with a flavorful high-heat fat like duck, lard, bacon fat or beef drippings. And if you don’t want animal fat, peanut oil will work just fine. Then you serve immediately with a big sprinkle of the vanilla salt (don’t be sparing with the salt on potatoes).
So what do you get? Fried potatoes, of course, but just a bit better…and then a lot better. The smooth vanilla aroma will start to waft up and enhance the rich, crispy and salty potatoes. What we find with these potatoes is that the extra depth from the vanilla salt keeps them interesting, and tasty, from beginning to end. And we get the bonus of having a bunch of vanilla salt for cocktails as well…you may see a few of those in the coming weeks.
Fried Fingerling Potatoes With Vanilla Salt:
(Adapted from Serious Eats, Stir and Strain and Chef Chad)
Notes Before You Start:
- Fingerling potatoes are a very good for this dish. Their long and narrow shape, and firm flesh fit this kind of double cooking. If you can’t get fingerlings, use another small, medium to waxy potato. Mealy potatoes like russets will not work well and will likely fall apart.
- Most chefs will tell you the best fat for fried potatoes is duck fat. And it is very, very good. Lots of deep flavor. You can often get duck fat from your butcher. Beef fat, or tallow, is also good for fried potatoes. But bacon fat or peanut oil also work well.
What You Get: Beautiful, crispy and tasty potatoes with a little something extra.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? About 30-40 minutes for the potatoes, with 10 minutes of active time. The vanilla salt is best if made a few hours ahead, but only takes a few minutes to assemble.
- 1 medium vanilla bean pod (3/4 large pod)
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds small fingerling potatoes, washed
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat, duck fat, beef drippings or peanut oil.
- To make the salt, split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds and kosher salt in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Store in an airtight container.
- For the potatoes, place them in a large saucepan. Cover with water and add the 2 tablespoons of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then lower to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are just tender all the way through, about 10-15 minutes (pull out a potato and cut it to see if it’s done).
- Remove the potatoes from the pot and strain any water. Let the potatoes cool and then slice in half lengthwise.
- Place a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and add the cooking fat. When the fat is hot, carefully add the potatoes, cut side down. Do not crowd the pan, work in batches if you need to. Move the heat to high and cook until the potatoes are golden brown, 5-6 minutes.
- Remove the potatoes from the pan and drain on paper towels. Season with the vanilla salt and serve immediately.
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