Cook's Illustrated (April 2011)
One of our favorite potato recipes -- actually, one of our favorite dishes in general -- was a Crispy Potato Roast we made last year. Golden and roasted on the outside, warm and buttery on the inside, it's a knockout of a dish -- and how often can you say that about potatoes? Since we wrote about it last January, we've heard from several Bitten Word readers that it's become an instant fave around their dinner tables, too.
So the bar was high when we spied this Potato Galette in the April Cook's Illustrated. But we were sold on CI's description of "a crisp, earthy-tasting potato cake" and the accompanying photo of beautifully layered potatoes. Plus, the article promises a great dish without all the fussy layering.
Could this newcomer hold its own against the heavyweight Crispy Potato Roast?
Time for a potato-off!
But for now, here's what you need to know: In order to reduce the starchiness of the potatoes that have been sliced using a mandoline, you rinse them in a large bowl of water and then lay them out on towels, quickly drying them off.
Then, after tossing them with butter and cornstarch, it's time to layer them in a dish. It's process that's only temporarily fussy. The first layer is carefully layered in, but the rest of the spuds slices are just tossed in to form an even layer.
The dense galette forms thanks to weights placed on top of the pan for half of the baking time. Once out of the oven, you invert the galette onto a platter or cutting board for serving.
Ours didn't turn out nearly as pretty as the magazine's version. Why? Well, the recipe calls for making the galette in a "heavy-bottomed 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet." And at the moment we actually don't own a 10-inch non-stick skillet (or any skillets with a non-stick coating), so we decided instead to use a 10-inch All-Clad metal skillet that we use all the time.
The first time we made this dish, we layered the potatoes into our 10-inch metal skillet. We followed the directions exactly, but the top layer of the galette stuck to our pan. It was still delicious, but we were lacking that crisp top that had been left behind when we inverted the dish onto a platter.
We made a second attempt for Easter brunch: This time we doubled the amount of butter placed in the pan before layering the potatoes, hoping that would help keep the potatoes from sticking. But the results were exactly the same: delicious, crispy potatoes on top that were, sadly, firmly stuck to the pan. But still, it didn't matter. The galette was delicious and guests raved. They hardly seemed to notice that the top of the galette was a bit askew.
If we were to make this dish a third time (and believe us, we will), we would do it in our cast iron skillet that's naturally nonstick. If we had thought of it in advance, this is what we would have done on Easter.
(There is a second equipment requirement here, though. Unless you're up to the tedious task of slicing the potatoes very thinly, we highly recommend, as does America's Test Kitchen, that you get a mandoline. We have the Oxo Good Grips Mandoline, which we love and haul out for occasions just like this. A mandoline saves you major time in slicing up the potatoes.)
Even with our issues with the potatoes sticking to the pan, this is a seriously delicious potato dish. The outside edges are crisp, while the inside is soft and buttery. (If you enjoy rosemary, can you add a bit for added flavor.)
So how does it compare with the Crispy Potato Roast?
Well, the roast is a bit easier, in that it skips the steps of washing and drying the spuds. And you don't get any of the sticking problems with the roast. On the other hand, this Potato Galette has an amazing density, this sort of rounded unctuousness that we don't remember with the Roast.
The bottom line is that you can't go wrong with either dish. Heck, why not make both and have a taste test? We're sure you'll love them.
Serves 6 to 8
2½ pounds (5 to 6 large) Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/8 inch thick (see note)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves (optional)
NOTE: In order for the potato cake to hold together, it is important to slice the potatoes no more than 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick and to make sure the slices are thoroughly dried before assembling the cake. Use a mandoline slicer or the slicing attachment of a food processor to slice the potatoes uniformly thin. A pound of dried beans, rice, or coins can be substituted for the pie weights. For an alternate method for unmolding the galette, see page 31.
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Place potatoes in large bowl and fill with cold water. Using hands, swirl to remove excess starch, then drain in colander. Spread potatoes onto kitchen towels and thoroughly dry.
Whisk 4 tablespoons butter, cornstarch, salt, pepper, and rosemary (if using) together in large bowl. Add dried potatoes and toss until thoroughly coated. Place remaining tablespoon butter in heavy bottomed 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet and swirl to coat. Place 1 potato slice in center of skillet then overlap slices in circle around center slice, -followed by outer circle of overlapping slices. Gently place remaining sliced potatoes on top of first layer, arranging so they form even thickness.
Place skillet over medium-high heat and cook until sizzling and potatoes around edge of skillet start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Spray 12-inch square of foil with nonstick cooking spray. Place foil, sprayed side down, on top of potatoes. Place 9-inch cake pan on top of foil and fill with 2 cups pie weights. Firmly press down on cake pan to compress potatoes. Transfer skillet to oven and bake 20 minutes.
Remove cake pan and foil from skillet. Continue to cook until potatoes are tender when paring knife is inserted in center, 20 to 25 minutes. Return skillet to medium heat on stovetop and cook, gently shaking pan (use potholder—handle will be hot), until galette releases from sides of pan, 2 to 3 minutes.
Off heat, place cutting board over skillet. With hands protected by oven mitts or potholders, using 1 hand to hold cutting board in place and 1 hand on skillet handle, carefully invert skillet and cutting board together. Lift skillet off galette. Using serrated knife, gently cut into wedges and serve immediately.