Well, this was my very first attempt at Fondant Potatoes, and I can’t say I did a lovely job. I know exactly what happened – wrong potatoes, unclarified butter, and did not cook long enough – and let those things happen anyway. They were delicious anyway, so
no few regrets.
First off I didn’t use waxy potatoes – I used German Butterballs – and rather than get brown they wanted to let off a lot of starch which welded itself to the pan and did the getting of the brown. I also could not be arsed to clarify the butter and knew from the start that that would mean I should be prepared to pull them off the stove earlier than I would otherwise to avoid burnt butter flavour. I pulled them off when the smell was so delectable I could wait no longer and also everything else had been sitting and waiting for 5 minutes already.
Before I made these I carefully read through Felicity Cloake’s article How to make the perfect fondant potatoes, from the Guardian, and followed her directions insofar as I am capable of following anyone’s directions. (Floury potatoes, unclarified butter; see.) Since under-cooking seems to be a hazard of this dish I did not hesitate to cook them in a more generous amount of water for a few minutes before draining much of it off and proceeding in the more usual way.
If you are cooking both potatoes and turnips, you will need fewer of each, obviously, and there is also a definite upper limit to the amount you can get in the pan. It will be so much easier to turn the pieces when the time comes if they are not jammed in like bus riders in rush-hour. If you want to serve more than 3 or 4 people you will need to break out a second pan.
In spite of all the flaws with this attempt, the resulting potatoes were delicious and distinctive. I will definitely want to work on making these a part of my potato (and turnip) repertoire.
In fact, after I had made these and written up the post, I found a small stash of Pink Fir Apple potatoes and tried them again. I had expected them to be better, but in some ways they were worse. The results were still very tasty, but really more like plain old fried potatoes. I am inclined to suspect that success here rests very much on having the right potato, and that I don’t have it. If anyone else has made these – with potatoes available in Ontario – I’d love to hear how it worked out for you and what kind of potatoes you used.
1 hour prep time
4 to 6 smallish (2″diameter) waxy potatoes
AND/OR 6 to 12 very small (1 1/2″ diameter) Goldana turnips
2 cups (about) water
3 tablespoons clarified butter OR unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
1 large clove of garlic
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Peel the potatoes and/or turnips and cut each one in half, aiming for as flat a profile as possible.
Put the pieces in a single layer into a sufficiently large skillet with the rounded sides down. Add the water – enough to just come up to the tops – and bring them to a boil. Boil them for 5 to 10 minutes; 5 minutes for potatoes and 10 minutes for turnips. If using both, start the turnips then add the potatoes when the turnips have boiled for 5 minutes.
Ladle off much of the water, leaving about enough to fill the pan to 1/4″. Add the butter, salt, and thyme and let the vegetables boil gently until the water is evaporated; about 10 or 15 minutes. Peel and mince the garlic while they cook. Add it to the pan as the water goes.
Continue cooking the potatoes and/or turnips for another 20 to 30 minutes until they have browned nicely on the underside. You can turn them and cook them some more on the top as well if you are that dedicated to hanging over a hot pan. They were quite lovely one-sided.
Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts with Sour Cream & Horseradish.