I love potatoes. I declared as much on screen when my sister Zizwe & I appeared in the inaugural season of Off The Menu with Ainsley Harriot, on (then) BBC Food. Yes, I confess, my Come Dine With Me SA appearance was not my BBC debut… back in 2004 a younger, more innocent and more effusive me waxed lyrical about my love for potatoes in various forms on Off The Menu. Alas, it was also not the last time I failed to win a cook-off on TV…
So, today, as I struggled through a treacle-slow Monday, I knew the one thing that could help me face the rest of the week was potatoes for dinner.
I’m an emotional eater, and thus an emotional cook. I needed starch, fat, pork. I confess I was daydreaming about my dinner for most of the day. My Twitter co-wifey Julie (we share a love for drool-inducing Common who, in case you didn’t know, loves me back) inspired me to go for potatoes; she tweeted me about the bhajias, chicken and lamb sausage she’d had for lunch and I was disgustingly jealous (not the sort of jealousy you’d expect within such a close-knit and loving family unit).
I remembered a couple of weeks after my Christmas Eve eve brunch (on 23 December, during which I hosted my family for a meal) that I’d forgotten to do my potatoes in duck fat like I’d been planning for a few weeks before. I blame that on the sudden explosion of my oven insulating glass which threw my menu out completely. Consequently I felt it necessary to take advantage of the Woolworths festive food & food gifts sale, and was fortunate enough to find a few tubs of duck fat at their Rivonia Boulevard store.
Then, of course, whenever I need a bit of a treat, there has to be bacon. It didn’t help that earlier in the day I read about the New York restaurant that specialises in bacon desserts (yes – bacon for dessert!). Lovely hot, crispy, salty, lip-smacking bacon… *stares into distance with dazed look on face*
Ok, enough rambling. Time for some cooking. The ingredients:
(I don’t know if you can tell – I do a great deal of my food shopping at Woolies.) I got two types of potatoes for variety, but ended up preferring the colour, texture and taste of the Nicola Mediterranean potatoes. I opted for the baby onions in the hope that that they’d be sweeter.
So, real quick – I washed and sliced the potatoes, keeping their skins on, and finely sliced the onions. While I was wielding my knife, I had the bacon rendering away in my wok.
Sinful though it may seem, yes, it is necessary to stick streaky bacon in oil, or the bacon fat doesn’t release its oils (this, after all, is the definition of “rendering”).
Next, I took the crisp bacon out, let the oil and fat cool down somewhat, before tossing in the finely-sliced onion, a generous teasponful of crushed garlic, three finely-chopped anchovy fillets (you can leave these out if you have anchovy issues), and a generous dose of freeze-dried tarragon (I forgot to buy fresh herbs):
Oh wait, I don’t have photos of that. Understandably so, as frying onions are somewhat dull. Moving on…
Next I threw in a large dollop of the duck fat, and in went the sliced potatoes, of which I do have a photo:
Can I just talk about the sound of potatoes frying in fat? Food frying in vegetable oil has a bit of a high-pitched whine to it… potatoes frying in a mix of sunflower oil, bacon fat and duck fat has this deep, almost resonant gurgle to it… the fat foams up about the vegetables in a sort of bubbly foam… it’s a beautiful thing.
Anyway, like I was saying, fry the potatoes in the fat. Season them – I used black lava salt almost on a whim, but it turned out to be a spark of brilliance when it came to the tasting; the black lava salt manifested as tiny crystals of savory goodness on my tongue. Back to the cooking – turn the heat down a bit, as that will help prevent the onions, tarragon, anchovies and garlic from burning. Turn the potatoes in the pan (or wok) frequently.
You’ll tell that the potatoes are ready when the translucence goes right the way to the centre of the potatoes. Take them off the heat, drain, and crumble over the crispy bacon reserved from the bacon fat rendering right at the beginning.
I needed even more pork (hey, it was a long day) so I served it with some pork bangers (also on special – buy two get R25 off! – I can’t resist a deal!), mayo, green chilli elixir, and absolutely no vegetables.
Bon appétit mes amis 🙂