Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Boulangere Potatoes


This is one of my favourite ways of cooking potatoes which, judging by the name, clearly originates from France and has something to do with French bakeries. In my ignorance, I have never been entirely sure exactly where the name comes from so, before sharing this recipe I tried to find out about the origin of boulangere potatoes so I could include some interesting facts in my post.

However (not unsurprisingly) there seems to be conflicting views. Some sources claim that the name relates to how the dish is cooked in a similar way to a baguette: slowly in the oven until it is brown and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Some state that it comes from the way the baker's wife would cook her potatoes once her husband had switched off the bread ovens for the day and there seem to be lots of tales of bakers cooking dishes of potatoes, onions and chicken stock in their ovens that had been brought by local people who didn't have ovens of their own. This final version conjures up such a lovely picture that it's the one I'm inclined to believe.

Wherever the idea came from, I do know that this is a delicious way to cook potatoes. Boulangere potates are very similar to their creamy cousins, dauphinoise potatoes, but for me this method is much more interesting and, as they are cooked in chicken stock and not double cream, they have more flavour and fewer calories - which is always a bonus as far as I'm concerned!

This is not a potato dish to cook when you are in a hurry! Without the aid of a food processor with a slicing blade, or a good hand-held slicer, the preparation can take a good half to three quarters of an hour and then there is a further one and a half hours baking on top of that. When time is not an issue, though, they make a tasty side dish to have with chicken or roast meat.

Boulangere Potatoes

1kg floury potatoes
2 medium onions
1tsp thyme leaves, chopped
1tsp rosemary leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
300ml chicken stock
1tbsp butter plus extra for greasing

1. Peel the potatoes and onions and slice them very thinly. As mentioned above, a food processor or hand-held slicer can make this job easier but a knife will do the job albeit at a slower pace.

2. Use some of the butter to grease an ovenproof dish and start to layer the ingredients by placing a layer of potato in the dish, followed by a layer of onion. Sprinkle some of the herbs over and season with salt and pepper then start layering again with potato, onion and so on until all the ingredients have been used up. Finish with a layer of potato on the top.

3. Once all the layers are complete press down on the top of the dish with your flat hand to push the layers together. Pour the chicken stock over the potatoes and dot the top with the butter.

4. Cover with foil and place in a pre-heated oven at 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour then remove the foil and cook for a further 30 minutes. Remove from the oven when the top is golden and the potatoes are soft.

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