Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Ultimate Maxim Potato

The Maxim Potato and I have become good friends over the course of my externship. Since day one we've been bonding, getting to know one another and finding out new quirks along the way, like how they only like a pinch of salt and how I start out some days not excited about doing them but am always proud of how beautiful they look out of the oven.

There has been a slow morphing of the Maxim since I've been working here in regards to one of the few ingredients in it. This ingredient, the fat, started out being clarified butter, which in my opinion is the best and most fun to work with since it tricks my mind into thinking I'm sitting at a movie theater eating buttered popcorn about to watch a great show. This fun game lasted about a month or so until Chef had a better idea.

Duck fat. I mean, we are in France right? It was used for the Maxims and is also being used for the rest of the dishes at the restaurant. Instead of ladles of crystal butter poured into saute pans there are big aluminum cans of duck fat lying around, on top of the stoves to keep melted and stored in the back room overnight. Gina and I were initially disturbed with the "off" smell and texture but I warmed up once I experienced the tastiness of the finished product.

This past week there was yet another change, but this time only to the Maxim. What could be richer than using duck fat you ask? Oh, just the simple drippings that comes off of the foie gras we bake in the ovens! Oh goodness, this picture I've posted doesn't give it justice. The color is bright yellow and the smell, oh the smell! I wasn't sure exactly what it was until I stuck my nose in it to find out and I seriously almost got sick. I venture to say it is worse than that weird bird door from my flat back in Brest. In its defense, I don't think it's meant to be smelled so deeply in such close proximity.

I wanted to write this post to get your thoughts on foie gras. I struggle with my dislike for it since I usually feel awkward and judged around other foodies. "What?" they ask, "you don't like foie gras?," like I've committed some culinary crime. I watch people eat it here with such enjoyment and it makes me wonder if I'm missing something. The other day, one of the cooks, Hugo, took a slice of baguette and put a couple heaping tablespoons of foie gras on top and devoured it without a flinch saying it was his favorite food of all time. I was amazed, shocked, perplexed.

There is a lot of controversy right now surrounding the subject and I'm almost positive it is being outlawed in California this year due to the "inhumane" practices that surround it's fabrication.
Do you love it? Hate it? Indifferent?
If you enjoy foie gras and are interested in knowing about a really neat farm in Spain where practices are quite humane and wonderful Dan Barber of Blue Hill gives a great talk about it on
Just one more reason I should embrace the delicacy.

And, if you're interested in making your own crispy potato garnishes at home, here's how:

Maxim Potatoes

-Clarified butter (or your choice of fat...I even think regular whole butter would be great)
-Russet potatoes
-Mandoline to slice the potatoes about a centimeter thick
-Tephlon containers to bake them in (I think you could put them on a sheet pan and use ring molds too)
-a round cutter to make potatoes look perfectly round and uniform before slicing them.

1. With a pastry brush, put a thin layer of butter on bottom of pan
2. Layer potatoes, overlapping one another, like pictured below
3. Brush another layer of butter on top and sprinkle with just a bit of salt
4. Bake in a preheated, 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on top

1 comment:

Breanne said...

Not a fan of foie gras at all! Some would argue it's because I have an "unsophisticated" palate. I like to say it's because I just don't enjoy eating the vital organs of another living thing. I've had the fanciest foie gras from Cafe de la Pax in Paris all the way to a homemade version at my uncles house and no where on the spectrum did I enjoy the dining experience. You're in good company with me :)