Saturday, 1 March 2014

Petite Pommes Anna and a Poem about Potato Salad

Just for our amusement, Fanny 'tucks in' a poem about an antique recipe for potato salad, from a cleric who 'undoubtedly had a great addiction to his tum'. The poem is intended to introduce some serious final points as we leave potatoes behind for a while - but fear not - Fanny reassures us that we shall pick up the potato story soon by introducing a mandoline, a Parisienne cutter and various other gadgets (perhaps we can buy them from Fanny too?) which will open up a wide range of potato recipes for us. It all sounds very dangerous and chef-y. I can't wait. But, meantime...

Two large potatoes passed through a kitchen sieve,
Smoothness and softness to a salad give.
Of Modern mustard add a single spoon, 
Distrust the condiment that bites too soon,
And deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault
To add a double quantity of salt.
Four times the spoon with the oil of Lucca crown,
And twice with vinegar procured from town,
True flavour needs it, and your poet begs,
The pounded yellow of two well boiled eggs.
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, scarce suspected, animate the whole.
And lastly in the flavoured compound toss
A magic spoonful of anchovy sauce.
Oh! Great and Glorious, Oh! Herbaceous heat,
'Twould tempt the dying Anchorite to eat;
Back to the world he'd turn his weary soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl.

No, I'm not sure either, but Fanny thought it funny.

Fanny Cradock

After the light hearted interlude, Fanny returns to her greatest love - the great, wise and wonderful French Chef Escoffier. He apparently invented a simple, quick and individual version of the classic Pommes Anna. Fanny shares both versions with us, but it's the individual ones I am making today. Fanny gives a very severe warning however for me to pay attention, recommending that I read through things very carefully before I begin. Of course, I always do. Well, mostly. Fanny assures me that I will find it very exciting for serving when entertaining, so I am paying particular attention. I wouldn't want to let any potential dinner guests down, although I am sure any ballgown I'd be wearing would be exciting enough.

As Fanny has yet to introduce the mandoline, she suggests using an ordinary cucumber slicer to cut very thin slices of peeled potatoes to transparent thinness. I'm hoping this is the part on the side of my box cheese grater than I certainly have always used to slice cucumbers, never really sure if that's what it was intended for. It slices the potato as described though, so that's good enough for me. They need to be patted very dry and seasoned with salt and pepper before being pushed firmly into buttered moulds.

This next step is the part Fanny wants me to pay particular attention to - health and safety alert. The individual moulds should be placed in cheap bun tins and then surrounded by extremely hot oil. Fanny says not to worry too much about the science here - and stresses that PLEASE do not write and ask her why this works, it just does. The potatoes are baked in a bath of oil. She wants us to focus on safety however as 'carting hot oil' around the kitchen is not recommended. It can cause tragedies. Fanny knows this all too well herself as she burnt herself extremely badly several years previously through being an idiot. Presumably this was before forcing her poor assistants to do all the work.

So, with the moulds sitting safely in their bath of scalding oil, they need to be baked uncovered in a very hot oven for just 35 minutes. Fanny recommends just forgetting about them. When they come out they are richly dark and crisp looking, with soft centres. Fanny says they should look like the sandcastles which she used to make with tin buckets on the beach. They are gorgeous though, the pepper shines through and they are soft and creamy tasting, not a hint of oil or moisture in them. Not sure anyone would ever write a poem about them, but they would be perfect of course at any respectable dinner party. Please do be careful with them though, no dinner party tragedies please.

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