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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Size Matters

Pommes souffles were not on my radar. Nope. Not a single blinking blip. I planned to pair fresh  plump  'frenched' center cut rib pork chops with a thinly layered gruyere-laden potato gratin. After suffering through a disastrous undercooked potato gratin at a local restaurant recently, I banished any notion of rehashing the memory of that unfortunate vapid and limp gratin imposter.

Blip. Enter pommes souffles, fascinating little potato puffs. Pommes souffles were created by a happy accident in 1837 when a French chef was forced to refry half-cooked sliced potatoes because of an unexpected delay in service.  When he tossed the blanched half-cooked potatoes into hot oil for the second time, the trapped steam caused the potatoes to puff up and crisp.  Brilliant.

I peeled two large russet potaoes before turning them ( a knife cut used to create oblong-shaped vegetables)  into the shapes of small pointy  footballs. Not knowing which cut size would produce the perfect puffs, I used  my to mandolin to shave one potato into 1/8 inch slices and the other potato into 1/4 inch slices. Yeah, I measured them.

I soaked the potatoes in ice water for 30 minutes before draining them and patting them dry. After heating oil in a deep fryer until it reached 325 degrees, I fried the potatoes in batches until they blistered  (5-6 minutes)  before scooping them onto a wire rack to drain.

While the potatoes cooled, I pan seared the center cut chops in butter and olive oil until they were deeply browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. After removing them to a plate, I added minced garlic, pearl onions, quartered grape tomatoes, salt, and pepper to the sizzling  pan drippings.  When the onions softened, I deglazed the pan with 1/2 cup white wine and added 1 1/2 cups chicken stock. I brought the stock to a boil, reduced it a simmer, slid the browned chops back into the pan, covered them, and let the chops braise for 20 minutes.

After pulling the braised pork from the heat to rest, I cranked the deep fryer to 400 degrees and carefully dropped the blanched potatoes into the shimmering  molten oil. They puffed immediately and turned golden brown. Magic.

I plated the chops alongside steamed broccoli spears before tumbling the pommes souffles onto baby arugula leaves to suspend them above the puddling pork juices. 

So, here's the deal. While the thinner 1/8 inch sliced potatoes exploded into crisp pillowy potato puffs, the thicker 1/4 inch slices turned into crackling potato chips. Potato chips or potato puffs? They were both fantastic.

When shooting for
perfect pommes souffles, 
size matters.

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