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Our cookbook of the week is Green Fire by Argentine chef Francis Mallmann. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with the author.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: Chauchas (summer beans) a la plancha with cucumber vinaigrette; and braised beet and plum salad.
“I’ve been in love with potatoes,” says Francis Mallmann. When he reached a culinary crossroads in 1995, potatoes helped show him the way.
“Back home in Patagonia, I cooked simply and with fire, but in sophisticated Buenos Aires, my restaurant food was more an Argentine version of fancy European cuisine,” he writes in Green Fire.
Bored with his career, he saw an opportunity to change tack when the International Academy of Gastronomy awarded him the Grand Prix de l’Art de la Cuisine.
The first South American to receive the honor, Mallmann pondered how he could best express the terroir of the region in his Grand Prix meal. The answer came to him in a moment of reflection: potatoes – 1,000 pounds of them from Cusco in the Peruvian Andes.
At a castle hotel near Frankfurt, Germany, he featured “the great gift of the Andes” in every course of his Grand Prix menu – from smashed yellow potatoes with caviar to potato ice cream with oranges and plums.
The dinner was a success, Mallmann recalls, and ultimately changed his career. “I resolved at that moment to simplify my food and to embrace the Patagonian heritage of wood-fire cooking,” he writes. His epiphany came down to the potato.
Cook this: Chauchas – summer beans – a la plancha from Green Fire
Cook this: Braised beet and plum salad from Green Fire
Here, he fries thin strips of the versatile tuber until crisp and golden, then layers them with parsley dressed in garlicky cream. Crunchy and creamy, sometimes simultaneously, Mallmann appreciates the potato’s shapeshifting qualities most of all.
“You can change them into very different textures. It’s a simple vegetable that makes nice crisps. That has an incredible mash. That you can get crispy on the outside and sort of wet in the inside, ”says Mallmann.
“I think my next book will be about potatoes. I’ll probably do 100 different recipes with them. Because they’re so noble, you know. They’re so, so noble. And you just boil it and break it with your hands and put some olive oil and salt, that’s all it needs. It doesn’t need much more than that. ”
CRISPY POTATO STRIPS AND PARSLEY SALAD WITH GARLIC CREAM
1/2 cup (118 mL) heavy cream
1 tsp finely minced garlic
2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
Olive oil, for deep-frying
2 cups (60 g) fresh parsley leaves
Red wine vinegar
Fleur de sel
Prepare a fire for medium heat and set a grate over it. Pull out a large deep cast-iron pot, such as a caldero or Dutch oven.
Combine the cream with the garlic in a very small saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced by half. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let cool.
Trim the potatoes into bricks (see note), cut them crosswise in half, then slice them lengthwise into very thin strips. They should be about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick, 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide and 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) long. Reserve them in a bowl of cold water if you are slicing them ahead of time, but drain them and thoroughly blot them dry on a dish towel before they go into the hot oil.
Pour oil into the caldero or deep cast-iron pot to fill it no more than halfway up the sides and attach a frying thermometer to the side. Set the caldero or pot on the grate (or if cooking indoors, set it on the stovetop over medium heat). Line a sheet pan with paper towels and set it nearby to drain the cooked potatoes. When the oil is hot enough to hiss and bubble around a strip of potato (about 350 ° F / 180 ° C), carefully add a large handful of the potatoes and fry until they are golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes.
Be careful not to let the oil get too hot, or they will burn very quickly. If they clump together, move them apart with a long-handled spider or skimmer. As the potatoes are done, use the spider to transfer them to the paper towels to drain.
Meanwhile, add the parsley to the garlic cream and toss to coat.
When the potatoes are done, sprinkle them with vinegar to taste, then gently layer them on a platter or individual plates with the dressed parsley. Gently toss the layers together with your hands to lightly dress the potatoes without breaking them. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve immediately.
Note: To trim the potatoes into bricks, set a potato on its side on a flat work surface and slice off the ends. Then slice off the four sides completely flat to form a brick. Pare off any remaining skin. Cut the brick crosswise in half and slice each half lengthwise into two symmetrical bricks to get four bricks from each potato.
Recipe and image excerpted from Green Fire by Francis Mallmann. Copyright © 2022 Francis Mallmann. Photography © 2022 William Hereford. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.