Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Happy Potato Accident

Have you ever had the good fortune to dine at the Rainbow Room? Not the current Cipriani-owned, pared-down version that exists today....but back in the hey day....that glorious Art Deco room with all of the crystal and elegance and the band and the revolving dance floor and the views and the glamour....THAT Rainbow Room.

Anyways, one of the dishes that Rainbow Room was well known for were pommes souffles and pommes souffles are a happy potato accident:

The story goes that Pommes Souffl├ęs were accidentally discovered in 1837 at the inauguration of a new railway line from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Lay. There was to be a lunch for the dignitaries at the restaurant in the new station. The train was had problems making it up a steep slope at the final approach to the station. The chef prepared some sliced fried potatoes at the appointed time, but when the guests didn't arrive on time, he had to remove the half cooked potatoes and allow them to drain and cool. After several attempts the train finally made it, and caught by surprise at the unexpected arrival of the guests, the chef plunged the potatoes quickly into very hot oil and to his amazement, saw them puff up.

Well, I had my own happy potato accident the other night that I would like to share with you dear readers. First off, I will say that potatoes do not frequently appear in our house. After losing 30 pounds on Atkins several years ago, I still have a slight lingering fear of carbohydrates. But we had made Shephard's pie the other week and needed potatoes for the topping and we had some extra so...

Tuesday night we cooked steaks. And I will sidetrack again to say this for anyone who lives in/near Charlotte. Go visit my friend Bucky the butcher at Reid's Marketplpace located uptown. Bucky dry ages prime beef for us for about 45 days and then cuts the most heavenly steaks. We usually get about 10 per order. He cryo-packs them so we can freeze them and they are just the best steak anywhere. We alternate between strips and ribeyes. We currently have strips (they really are that good) and cooking them is always something of a special occasion. Sort of.

Marty and I don't really need a special occasion for anything food/wine related but if we are cooking a Bucky steak, there's considerable more thought that goes into the meal. I was going to make my world-famous cheese souffle (can absolutely stand up to a Bucky steak) but Marty was feeling old-school and we had those potatoes so...we went traditional. Baked potatoes. Of course, it was 6:50pm when I realized that a) we hadn't even started cooking dinner and b) the oven needed to pre-heat and c) I was starving and d) the last time Marty had made a baked potato it had taken FOREVER.

So I cranked the oven to 450, plunked the potatoes in and went about my business. For one hour and 15 minutes.

So I seriously did not know that you can overcook a baked potato. But apparently - you can. We pulled them out - they were hard as rocks. Marty politely commented that every ounce of moisture had been sucked out of the potato and that they were ruined. Unsalvagable. Inedible.

Not for this girl.

The potatoes were promptly sliced in half and the insides scooped into a bowl where they were mixed with butter, sour cream, stock, scallions, cheese, salt and pepper. The new filling was then spooned into the ultra-crispy (and ultra-sturdy) skins, and then the whole lot went back in the oven for about 10 minutes to heat through. The final touch was a sprinkle of Parmesan and a spin under the broiler.

When I tell you that these were the best ever twice-baked potatoes I have ever made/eaten, I would not be lying. They were INCREDIBLE. And part of it was because the skin was soooooo crispy because I had killed them in the oven during the first go around.

So there. That's my happy potato accident.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...