Friday, February 26, 2010

Pommes Soufflée

The first time I was exposed to souffléed potatoes was when a Certified Master Chef(CMC) decided to make them, randomly, while teaching a class at culinary school... we didn't have much success. Conceptually, they do not really appeal to me; they are a hybrid, not a chip, and not a fry. However, I love frying potatoes, so I couldn't resist exploring this uncommon preparation.  I did some research and found that all of the recipes called for two frying stages.  Other than this, there were subtle differences in fry temperature or shape of the potato.   I bought a few potatoes and decided to run the gamut; fry at a bunch of different temperatures and cut a bunch of different shapes.
Here are the short answers:
Does the shape matter? Not really.
What thickness is best? 2mm
Does the type of potato matter? Yes, a lot.
What temperature for the first fry? 310°F
What temperature for the second fry? 380°F
How long do I let the potato rest in-between frys? Do not let the potato rest.

Now the long explanation:
I used russet and carola potatoes. I started by ring cutting some and leaving some in the natural shape of the peeled potato. I tried frying in increments of 10 degrees Fahrenheit for the first and second frys. The range for the first fry was 270-360. The range for the second fry was 360-400. Through these temperature ranges I was trying 3 different thicknesses 2,3 and 4 mm. Here are some shots of what it looked like.

From these trials I found that the 2mm slices had the best texture, and starting at 310F dried them out, generated a good amount of steam to puff the sides, and didn't prematurely brown them. Also, finishing above 380F turned the potatoes dark brown in just a few seconds, but below this temperature doesn't generate enough steam to get the puff.
To be honest though, none of the potatoes really puffed, they blistered, and all looked liked they wanted to puff, but they all looked like this. LAME! I wanted crunchy potato pillows. I was feeling defeated, all of these trials and not much to show for it.

I then decided to try a different technique. I didn't think to do this initially because when I was researching for this little project I read a story about how these were supposedly "discovered" when a chef started to fry a chip and then had to pull it out before it was done, and then refried it.  This implied a resting period. I noticed that the potatoes would start to puff in the first fry, and then deflate, they would even hiss as they cooled down.  I started to realized that if I just went directly into the hot oil they would go from kind of starting to puff, to fully puffed and never deflate.  All of a sudden I had the pillows I wanted, crunchy, crisp, and airy. I also was getting all of the potatoes to puff. In the earlier trials a few of the potatoes, like one out of 50, would really puff up, but most would just kind of half-puff. There was one exception to the no-resting-double-fry technique, the carola potatoes never puffed as much as the russets, not even close. Check it out.

Two frying pots!

Above: carolas right russets left

Here, on the right, is the close-up of the not so great puff of the carola, everything above is russet, little potato pillows!

Oh, and if you don't have a use for the trim from the ring cut potatoes, just fry them crisp at 310F the whole time and then cover in an egg(knoll krest farm) and cheese(gouda parrano), this was my roommates late-night snack while I was trying to figure out how to get the potatoes to puff.

No matter how you fry them, potatoes are going to taste pretty good after getting some hot oil treatment. I had to eat a lot of mediocre ones during these trials, but I didn't mind.  If you want the specific taste and texture of a souffléed potato then I hope my experience with them helps you along the way.

Let me know what you think!
Have you noticed I have a hard time formating pictures so they fit with the text!? I would appreciate some help.

As always,



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