Episode 106: Special Spuds
Recipe: Potato Ragout
These stewed potatoes recall summer for me, when our garden in Lyon gave forth the tiny fingerling potatoes that are particularly good in the dish. It is true family food and it remains a favorite in both my mother’s home and mine.
The ragout reheats well and is excellent served with a tough, slightly bitter green, such as frisée or escarole, seasoned with a strong vinegary or garlicky dressing.
Potato ragout is usually made with lardoons (strips of salt pork or pancetta), but it can also be made with leftover ham or sausage. Salt pork comes from the same part of the belly as bacon and is salted but not smoked, as is bacon. Get the leanest piece you can find. Many recipes direct you to blanch salt pork to make it less salty. Here you need only wash it well under cold water.
1 10-ounce slab salt pork or 10 ounces pancetta, as lean as possible
1 tablespoon peanut oil
3 large onions (1 pound), cut into eighths
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon crushed and coarsely chopped garlic
3 bay leaves
1 fresh thyme sprig or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 pounds fingerling or small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
Rinse the pork under cold running water, then cut it into 1/2-inch-thick strips. Don’t remove the rind: it gives the sauce a slightly gelatinous texture. Pile the strips together and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Fry the strips of salt pork in the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are nicely browned and crisp and have rendered of most of their fat. Add the onions and cook for 5 more minutes, or until lightly browned.
Add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring to brown the flour lightly, which will give the stew a nutty taste. Add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and water, stir, and bring to a boil.
Add the potatoes and return to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the potatoes are well cooked. They should be soft and creamy. Serve.
Copyright © 2011 by Jacques Pépin. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.