THE POTATO – has a very long history but for the sake of cutting that a little short we will start from a point of originality being grown by the Incas, and was discovered in Peru by Francisco Pizarro and brought to Europe in 1534. It was fifty years later that Sir Walter Raleigh made the same discovery in Virginia and brought it to England. Long regarded in France as a food fit only for the poor, the potato was popularised by Antoine-Augustin Parmentier and became one of the staple foods at the beginning of the 19th century. It lends itself to the most comprehensive range of recipes of all vegetables, from the popular mash and chips to the elaborate potato straw nests, duchesse potatoes and soufflé potatoes.
It is quite a shame that in many households the culinary adventures with the potato are restricted to chips (often frozen), roasted, baked, boiled in skins and occasionally mashed, when there are so many recipes and variations on ways to served them. We are also deprived of the many varieties that are grown when we buy them at Supermarkets. If you do have the opportunity of a Farm Shop or Farmers Market then do experiment with the many varieties that are often on offer. Each variety has a specific way of cooking, to show it at its best. Some are best suited to mashing – some for roasting and some firmer for salads. It really is worth trying.
Numerous recipes have been created by and named accordingly. Like Pommes Parmentier, or Pommes Pont Neuf (after the Pont Neuf Bridge) or Pommes Delmonico (Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York) and then Pommes Dauphinois named after the Dauphine region of South East France. Many start with a base and then are adapted further like Pommes Duchesse becoming Pommes Croquettes or Marquise.
These potatoes are attributed to the famous Delmonico’s Chef Charles Ranhofer around 1838. Though there are others who lay claim to the dish. They were however served at Delmonico’s and became a signature dish. It also has to be said that there are several variations to the recipe to. So this is my version for you to try.
Potatoes – peeled and cubed (about ½ – ¾ inch)
Freshly grated Nutmeg
Grated hard Cheese – Cheddar, or a Blue Cheese
- Boil the Cubed Potatoes in water until just cooked but still firm and drain
- Replace to pan and cover with Milk. Season with Salt and Grated Nutmeg and bring to the boil
- Tip into a buttered ovenproof Gratin Dish and top with a mixture of Grated Cheese and Breadcrumbs.
- Bake in a hot oven until golden or brown under a grill and serve.
Serve with roasted or grilled meats – other vegetables or tossed salad leaves.