• Potatoes a la Boulangere: The Best Potatoes You Will (Almost) Never Eat

    Potatoes à la Boulangere.

    Let’s start by saying these are some of the best potatoes and onions you will ever eat. Sweet and salty, with a touch of herbs, and a soft texture with a little crunch on top. And a very pretty dish, too. Every bite is a delight. So you, or our family, may ask, “why don’t we make this more often?” And then you remember all the work you just put into making this dish, and you know exactly why this is for special occasions (or masochists). Such is the challenge of Potatoes à la Boulangere, really good, but a pain in the posterior real effort.

    Potatoes à la Boulangere is a simple combination of potatoes, onion, butter, thyme, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Layered and cooked together for at least an hour in the oven, the ingredients meld into a truly lovely dish. So what’s the problem? Well, there are two ways to make this dish. The “easy” way, which is good. Or, the “hard” way, which is truly great. If you go the “easy” way, you simply slice and layer the raw onions and potatoes, add some seasoning and herbs, cover with the stock and cook, and it will be tasty. But if you want the dish to truly sing, it is best to caramelize the onions and slightly brown the potatoes before you layer the ingredients and cook in the oven. The extra flavors from the caramelized onion and the browned potatoes add whole new sweet and savory dimensions to the dish. It also adds an hour of work and some dishes. We often choose the “hard” way, but won’t hold it against anyone for choosing the “easy” method.

    Happily, this is not a hard dish to make. It may take time, but the steps are very clear. And if you have a food processor or mandolin, the process is that much easier. Thinly slice two large onions and caramelize them over medium heat with a few tablespoons of butter. Stir often and wait, and wait, until the onions are soft and deep golden brown, about thirty minutes. Meanwhile peel and slice five pounds of potatoes and then caramelize them with butter, in batches, for about five minutes per batch. This will take another twenty to thirty minutes. Then check for seasoning and layer the potatoes, onions, and herbs in a heavy pot or baking dish. Add the chicken stock and cook for about an hour, or until the potatoes absorb all the liquid. And then, finally, you’re done.

    But what you get is good enough to make you forget all your labor. These potatoes work with almost any roast beef, pork or chicken dish, and will usually outshine them.  You can serve these potatoes immediately and they will taste great, but the potatoes may fall apart. If you let them cool for ten to fifteen minutes, the potatoes will set and you can serve the potatoes in wedges that show off all the pretty layers. And since you just spent two hours making the potatoes, what is an extra fifteen minutes to show them off in all of their glory? (And you can enjoy a well-deserved cocktail).

    Potatoes à la Boulangere:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • We use Yukon Gold potatoes for this dish, but some recipes suggest waxy “new” potatoes like Red Bliss. Either will work, but baking potatoes like Russets will fall apart.

    What You Get: Incredibly rich, sweet potatoes and onions with both soft and crunchy texture.

    What You Need. No special equipment is required, but there is a lot of slicing. A food processor or mandolin will be a big help.

    How Long? Over two hours if you do it the “hard” way, with about forty-five minutes of active time. This is a special occasion dish, but the results are worth it. Great for big holiday meals where you can plan ahead and/or get free labor from family. Continue reading