Food & Drink

Doubly good potatoes

Potato Gratin Fries.
Potato Gratin Fries. Photo for The Washington Post by Renee Comet

Cooking potatoes twice is rarely a bad idea: Think french fries, hash browns, even tater tots.

At G by Mike Isabella in D.C., chef Elliot Drew takes the concept to another level for the evening tasting menu. Alongside a cauliflower “steak,” he offers crisp potato pieces, creamy and buttery inside, that deserve to become part of any dinner-party host’s repertoire. The preparation is straightforward enough: After baking thinly sliced potatoes, you press, chill, cut – then fry them until golden brown.

With their beautiful layers, the gratin fries may eclipse whatever you serve them with, so plan accordingly.

Potato Gratin Fries

5 pounds russet potatoes

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter

Coarse sea salt

Vegetable oil

Peel potatoes. Slice them as thinly as possible, preferably using a mandoline. Melt butter.

Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, and brush it with a little of the melted butter. Arrange a layer of potatoes in the dish, overlapping slightly. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, the butter and salt, and again until all the potatoes are used.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil; bake in a 350-degree oven until tender when pierced with a skewer, 60 to 90 minutes. Remove from the oven. Place a plate on top large enough to cover the potato gratin (through the foil), then place cans of tomatoes or beans on top, as weights. Cool to room temperature, then transfer the setup to the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 4 inches in a deep pot over medium-high heat. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Remove the potato gratin from the refrigerator. Fill a sink with an inch of hot tap water, and set the pan in the water for a minute to loosen the cake. Discard the foil, run a knife around the inside edge of the baking dish. Invert on a cutting board and pop out the block of potato gratin (which can remain inverted).

Use a sharp knife to cut it into 1-inch slabs, then cut each slab on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide strips.

Once the oil registers 375 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, use a slotted spoon to lower each strip of potato gratin into the oil, holding it for a few seconds before releasing (so the layers won’t break up). Working in batches to avoid crowding, fry until the potato gratins are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the cooling rack. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

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