16 October 2008

Potatoes: here's what happened...

Yesterday morning, I picked up Joël Robuchon's book full of potato recipes and looked at the cover. The picture is of potato chips, I think, but it just made me think of thinly sliced potatoes, ones you might use to make a gratin dauphinois cooked with milk, cream, and cheese. I've posted a recipe for that dish before — exactly a year ago, as it happens.

These were the little red potatoes.

Then I looked at the bag that my potatoes were in. What does the label show? A gratin plus ou moins dauphinois. Things were becoming clear. And then I remembered a recipe from a book I recently got in the mail.

Peeled, thinly sliced potatoes

Now I have to say this blogging thing is working out nicely. Just in the past couple of months, two people I've met and who read the blog have sent me cookbooks! I encourage all of you to do the same (just joking). BettyAnn, a frequent commenter and May visitor, sent me a Loire Valley cookbook. Out of that book, I made a pork roast with baked apples when Peter and Jill Hertzmann were here in September. It was a success. I also made rillons — cubes of pork breast cooked in duck or pork fat — which we enjoyed with visitors Carolyn and her husband a few weeks ago.

And then last week I got another cookbook in the mail. Thank you, Ladybird (Martine). It's a book of recipes from the Alsace, a region I've never visited but a cuisine I like very much (especially sauerkraut, choucroute garnie, for which the season is approaching). And in the Alsace cookbook that Martine sent, I had seen a recipe for something called Pommes de terre fumées. "Smoked potatoes" — it's an eye-catching title.

In fact, it is a potato gratin with onions and smoked pork lardons, or bacon. I happened to have some lardons in the fridge. So I decided to make pommes de terre fumées for lunch yesterday, to accompany the boudins blancs. Again, it was a success — even if I do say so myself.

A layer of potatoes, a layer of pre-cooked lardons and onions

Here's a translation of the potato recipe.
Smoked potatoes

200 g (6 oz.) butter
2 kg (approx. 2 lbs.) potatoes
3 onions
150 g (5 oz.) smoked bacon
salt & pepper

Generously butter a cast iron pot.

Peel, wash, and cut the potatoes into thin disks.

Lay down a layer of potatoes, then a layer of sliced onions. Salt and pepper the onions.

Blanch the smoked bacon (if you think it is too smoky- or salty-tasting) and put down a layer of bacon over the onions. Cover the dish with the rest of the sliced potatoes. Sprinkle salt and pepper over all, and then dot the top generously with butter.

The top layer of potatoes dotted with butter

Close the pot and cook it in a very hot oven, 220ºC (425ºF) for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

I didn't blanch the bacon because the lardons I buy are smoky but not excessively so — sometimes French smoked pork belly is extremely smoky and salty and the flavor needs toning down. And I chopped the onion and cooked it along with the lardons in a skillet before I put it as a layer between the two layers of potatoes. You could do the same with bacon, and it think you do need to lightly cook the bacon before you put it in the cooking dish. It doesn't hurt to pre-cook the onions also.

Here are the potatoes as they came out of the oven.

Because I like these flavorings, I also added a dash of allspice, a couple of bay leaves, and a little pinch of dried thyme to each dish — I used shallow baking dishes so I ended up with two pans of potatoes. I guess I could have used a deeper earthenware dish.

And here are the boudins blancs.
Any sausages would be good with the smoked potatoes.

It was good. These boudins were basically turkey sausages. Chicken or duck sausages would be excellent with the potatoes. As would fresh pork saucisses de Toulouse, or smoked saucisses de Montbéliard. Or a grilled chicken breast. For example. And with the meat and potatoes, have a nice tossed salad.


  1. Ken, I'm glad you are enjoying the book with the 'Alsace' recipes! Those 'pommes de terre fumées' look delicious.
    We are off for two days to the Ardennes, to enjoy a nice braised partridge ... Yes, the hunting saeson has started and all the restaurants overhere start serving 'gibier'. Martine

  2. What perfect winter comfort food. Now if I can only find some lardons that haven't come from bacon artificially stuffed with extra brine, as bacon often is in the UK...

  3. Autolycus – you need to hop on your bike and head over to Borough Market. You need to stop off at that clever Mr Gott's place, Sillfield Farm (always there and lots of fab porky produce. Also butter and eggs. It's where to go if you need a pig's head for anything too.)

    Ken – thanks for the dauphinois recipes – Simon will undoubtedly have me making them on the weekend.

  4. What a delicious-sounding potato dish. Tonight is potato night here and you have suggested two possibilities.

    Those rillons are the MOST satisfying dish. No luck yet finding duck fat around here but I have hopes of the DC area.

    I described rillons to my mother who said it was popular on the farm, though they didn't have duck fat to work with.

  5. ooh oooh.... I'll be making this one, too. Maybe for Thanksgiving, when we're always looking for some new recipe for the side dishes. So, to cover the kind of dish you used, what did you do...just use foil?

  6. can't believe y'all haven't been to Alsace.......it's so picturesque...and delicious wine & crement......fall would be lovely there! I've always wanted to go to the Strasbourg christmas market

  7. Hi Judy, yes, foil.

    Martine, I envy you. But I guess we have a lot of game here on the edge of the Sologne region too.

    Auto., good luck finding smoked belly.

    Susan, happy cooking!

  8. i hope you will write a little bit more about specialites of the loire.

  9. Ah, the lovely, yummy gratin dauphinois. I've made it several times and enjoyed it thoroughly. Now that I have a mandoline with a finger guard, there are no more sliced finger as an extra ingredient. We don't have pork in the house any more, so I won't be able to try today's installment, but I'm thinking it might be good just with the sauteed onions. Anyone have suggestions for something non-pork to impart the smokey flavor? Some smoked salmon, perhaps?


  10. Susie

    If you can get thin slices of smoked duck, it will work also.

  11. Susie, smoked chicken or smoked turkey could be good too, like TB's smoked duck. How about smoked turkey bacon?

  12. Ooh, those potatoes look delicious and I'm glad you're enjoying the Loire Valley cook book.


    p.s. I have now caught up on your posts, after being away a week, and have to say that your photos of autumn in St Aignan are beautiful!

  13. I'd send you "The Book of Tofu" from my collection, but I'm not sure you and Walt would be up to it.

    By the way, if you haven't seen the Chocolate and Zucchini blog you may be interested in a series she's doing on French idiomatic expressions as they relate to food. The first post is at


  14. Tom, Walt and I both like tofu and cook with it when we can. But you can't buy it here in Saint-Aignan. And you can't buy it ahead in Paris or Blois and save it for very long. Except for this: we buy it in cans when we go to the big Asian market in Paris. It's not as good as fresh, but it is tofu.


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