Day 47: Confit Potatoes
inspired by The Quality Chop House
A while ago I was worried about becoming a lockdown cliché. Over the bank holiday weekend I seem to have turned into a lockdown liability.
First I managed to get sunburnt. In a supermarket queue. Standing in the carpark for 15 minutes was all it took. The irony that suncream was on the shopping list was not lost on me.
This, I thought to myself, is the epitome of lockdown life right now. It can’t get worse than this.
But I was wrong.
That evening I was late to a zoom drinks. Because my sourdough starter had burst out of its jar, and was slowly spewing all over the kitchen. Apparently I’m not the only one that can’t handle the heat.
Apologising to your friends that you will be late for virtual drinks whilst trying to scrape fermented flour mess off your cupboards is not how I thought I would be starting my evening.
This is the moment you realise that you might be going slightly mad.
Lockdown has finally broken me.
So now I’m slightly pink, quite hungover and still have bits of sourdough cemented to my kitchen floor.
It’s time for some comfort food.
I’ve been saving something special for the weekend.
Potatoes? Special? Really? You’ve obviously never had these potatoes…
I’ve wanted to make Quality Chop House’s confit potatoes for a while. This is the reason that Aidan had to carry that enormous bag of Maris Pipers home from the supermarket last week.
Because these are the best potatoes ever.
You would think that a restaurant called The Quality Chop House would be all about the meat. Yes their chops are great. But these confit potatoes steal the show.
And now I understand why.
I found the recipe on Great British Chefs website. The reason they taste so good is that the potatoes are layered and cooked in duck fat. For three hours. Then pressed overnight in the fridge. This is not fast food.
They slice their potatoes super fine with a mandoline. I don’t have one of these. And even if I did I think I’ve had enough disasters this weekend. I’d like to keep my fingers, and the remnants of my dignity in tact.
So I slice them as thinly as I can (or as thinly as I can be bothered to), toss them in salt and duck fat and start layering them in an oven dish. I’m starting to regret not being more precise. It’s quite tricky to get them to all fit together with no gaps.
Never mind. Into a low oven for three hours. They are covered in greaseproof paper so I don’t have to worry about them burning. You just want them to get really soft.
After they have cooled you need to add weights to press them. Hmm.
Time for a bit of improvisation. A couple of tins of bean is the best I can come up with to weigh them down. Fitting this into the fridge is not going to be fun.
The next day out they come. I’m meant to be slicing them into even pieces ready for frying. This proves tricky. Mainly because the potatoes do not want to stay together.
The ones at the bottom are OK. But you can tell I lost patience as I got to layering the ones closer to the top. There are gaps everywhere and that means one thing.
I decide against deep frying the ones that just about manage to cling together. I’m worried they will instantly disintegrate.
Instead I heat about a centimetre of oil in a frying pan and shallow fry. Every time I turn them a slice of potato will make a bid for freedom. I’m ending up with fewer and fewer potatoes and a growing pile of what I can only describe as crisps.
Which are delicious by the way. Duck fat crisps. Yes please.
I was making enough for four people. In the end I end up with seven, rather rustic potato cuboids. And a huge heap of crispy bits.
But it doesn’t matter that they fell apart or that they are not perfect looking. Because they taste incredible. The hours of slicing, cooking, pressing and frying have all been worth it. Even if they are eaten in a matter of minutes.
Maybe these potatoes are the epitome of how we are all feeling right now. Slightly uneven and desperately trying to hold ourselves together.
And in my case a bit burnt around the edges.