Until a couple of years ago, potatoes would have been at the bottom of my list of favourite carbs. I have no idea why but I can tell you that things seem to have changed and I couldn't be happier about it. Lately I have been trying out lots of different ways to make yummy and innovative dishes using potatoes. Everything from classic Spanish Tortilla to potato hash as well as stuffed potatoes.
During the summer months, good old fashioned potatoes are seriously neglected. We stop eating chips, we stop eating mash and the only spud that gets a look in is the Jersey new potato in salad form. Now that the weather is getting colder, it's a great time to focus on root vegetables and the like as they are perfectly in season and just the kind of food we start to crave in Autumn/Winter.
So how to make the humble potato more exciting? Well, potatoes are so versatile and whilst we Brits love our mash and chips and know what to do with the humble spud, the French have a few great ideas as well (think Dauphinoise and Fondant!) But this is one of my favourite potato dishes from France and I'm happy to eat it as a main meal on it's own and its called Pommes Boulangeres. Boulangeres deriving from the French word for bakery (Boulangerie), this dish would most likely have been something that a baker one day came up with and popped into his baker's oven or possibly local families would prepare and take to the baker to cook for them in his oven. Either way, thank god for its creation!
This dish is incredibly simple, as most peasant food should be; consisting of layers of thinly sliced potatoes dotted with butter, seasoned with salt, pepper and a scant seasoning of thyme and once the potatoes are layered right the way to the top of the baking dish... pour over good quality chicken stock and then place in the oven. The result is delicious and rather than ramble on any more and ensure you just how you can make it here is the recipe for my Pommes Boulangere;
- Large waxy potatoes - not Maris Piper / King Edward (quantity depends on size of oven dish you choose!)
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
- White/brown onions (again, as many as you would need to cover each layer of potato in your own oven dish) sliced roughly into half moons
150g salted butter
- Maldon sea salt
- Black pepper
- Good quality chicken stock (but you can use Knorr jelly/liquid stock too) enough to top up and almost cover the potatoes
**ovenware suitable dish with lid** (Le Creuset pans are great for this!)
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees (fan assisted) and thinly slice the potatoes to the thickness of a matchstick, approximately. Then layer your potatoes until you have generously covered the base once, overlapping the potatoes slightly, seasoning well with Maldon sea salt and black pepper and covering with a generous handful of the sliced onions. Then dot with a few knobs of butter (small) and a scant sprinkling of fresh thyme and repeat the process until either the ovenware dish is full or you have run out of potatoes, but make sure that your top layer consists of potato only with just a little butter and salt and pepper.
Once the dish is full, gently pour the stock over the potatoes until it just about covers the potatoes, but not entirely and place in the oven for 20 minutes on 220 degrees without the lid, before covering with a lid and reducing the temperature to 170 degrees and cooking for a further 40 minutes.
Once the time is done, simply lift the lid and serve! This is a great dish perfect with meat, fish, game or just on its own or with some cheese even. Use vegetable stock if you are a vegetarian, of course and enjoy!