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).