I thought I had reached the end of the rabbit hole when it came to making potatoes. I really should have known better, since potatoes are endlessly versatile—from fries to mash to patties to hash and beyond, I stand in awe of the almighty potato. When I recently discovered fondant potatoes, my eyes were opened to a whole new world.
Fondant potatoes (sometimes called melting potatoes or pommes de terre fondantes, for you Francophiles) is a French method for preparing potatoes. But that’s underselling it. It’s a side dish that looks and feels oh-so-fancy but is actually very easy to make. The mostly hands-off process yields impressive potatoes that are crisp on the outside and meltingly tender and flavorful on the inside.
How To Make Fondant Potatoes
Start by peeling some russet potatoes and trimming the ends to flatten them. Slice each one in half so you have these hearty potato mountains that sit up. Soak them in water to remove a bit of the starch—10 to 15 minutes is enough—while you preheat the oven and heat up the pan.
I suggest a 10 to 11-inch cast iron pan, but any oven-safe pan that’s 10 inches or larger will work. The more evenly the pan heats, the better-looking your potatoes will be. Heat some oil until piping hot and add the potatoes, letting them brown on one side. Flip and add butter followed by garlic, thyme or rosemary, and chicken broth. Oh, and don’t forget to season generously with salt!
The whole thing goes in the oven to cook, hands-off, for about half an hour. Your house will be filled with a magical aroma and you’ll be rewarded with picture-worthy potatoes.
Pick Your Potatoes Wisely
Go for plain old russets for this recipe. They are the ideal size and have the right amount of starch for this cooking method. Red, yellow, and white potatoes simply won’t do.
For the best results, look for russets that are on the small side—at least for an American supermarket. Some of the spuds at my market can rival a melon in sheer heft, and they take an eternity to cook through. You want russet potatoes that are between half and one pound each, ideally between half and 3/4 pound.
No matter what, make sure all of your potatoes are the same size so they cook evenly.
How To Serve Fondant Potatoes
These are easy enough for a family dinner and they’re special enough for a dinner party. Especially since you can make them up to 30 minutes ahead of time. They stay hot for quite some time, and they’re still delicious when slightly warm.
Serve them with steak for a home run or with chicken, sausage, or fish for a filling meal. They’re nice with a tender brisket or roast chicken and wilted spinach. Anytime you’re in the mood for crispy, buttery potatoes, whip up fondant potatoes.
Potatoes, Potatoes, Potatoes!
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Prepare the potatoes:
Peel the potatoes. Lay a peeled potato on its side and trim about 1/2 an inch off of each side to create flat ends. Cut the potato in half, so you have two large pieces of potato that can sit up on their cut ends. Repeat with the other potatoes. You will have eight big pieces of potato, shaped like little flat-topped mountains.
Place the peeled, cut potatoes in a bowl and cover with cool water. Let soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Arrange a rack in the center of the oven.
Heat the pan and dry the potatoes:
Add the oil to an oven-safe skillet (preferably a 10 or 11-inch cast iron pan) and heat over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke.
Meanwhile, drain the potatoes and pat dry with paper towels.
Sear the potatoes:
Once the oil is hot, add the potatoes to the pan evenly spaced apart, cut side down. Season with half of the salt. Let sear until nicely browned on the bottom, 5 to 7 minutes.
Use tongs or a thin spatula to carefully flip the potatoes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter in one big piece to the center of the pan. Season with the remaining salt and the pepper.
Flip and add the remaining ingredients:
Once the butter is halfway melted, gently swirl the pan and turn off the heat. Add the garlic cloves. Let the butter completely melt, then add the thyme or rosemary followed by the broth. Note that the butter may foam up when you add the broth, so be careful.
Carefully transfer the pan to the center rack of the preheated oven. Bake until the potatoes are browned on the top and bottom and a paring knife can easily be poked through, 30 to 40 minutes.
Use a spoon to baste the tops of the potatoes, then sprinkle with more salt. If desired, squeeze a little lemon juice over top. Let cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
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