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The Crispy Smoked Potatoes

The longest running dish on the moorcock menu, crispy smoked potatoes. The most requested recipe for the blog. We received poems even an erotic short story about this dish.

In the first year I took them off the menu for 2 weeks when the variety of potatoes I liked to use went out of season, which came with a hard boycott. One of the few times my stubbornness in the kitchen was over ruled.

The dish relies on the variety of the potato used, not all are created equal. We were constantly testing through out the year to find the perfect spud.

varieties we had the best success with were Mayan Gold, Pink Fir Apple, Wilja, Carolus, Maris Pipers and Russets. The key is finding a potato with earthy flavour with as little sugar and moisture as possible. Once the potatoes decide its time to get ready to sprout they convert to sugar, then they burn before they crisp and the peach for the next talented variety continues. The same for a wet or waxy potato, they just stay soggy.

The wild card in that list of potato varieties is the pink fir apple, they are a waxy potato, strong flavoured. Usually good for boiling and using in salads. Surprisingly they do make wonderful crispy smokes.

To start with we served the potatoes with miso mayonnaise, we opened with about 200kg of homemade misos, made from peas, beans, breads, mushrooms, oysters. The popularity of these ran that down. For those at home it is as simple as mixing miso paste with mayonnaise to taste.

We used miso as it is meaty and high amino acids making a rich sauce for the spuds. Once I realised we were in the red zone with the miso we changed tactics and started serving it with yeast mayonnaise, also very high in amino acid and to my mind tastes a lot like roast chicken, who doesn’t want roast potatoes and chicken sauce?

I will include a recipe in a seperate post for the roast yeast sauce, but as fresh yeast maybe hard for you to get your hands on outside a commercial kitchen I would recommend mixing nutritional yeast with mayonnaise to taste.

Another popular garnish for the potatoes popularised by our neighbour Nick Green was with a block of cultured butter. Its really really good.

Back to the potatoes.

The idea was to mimic triple cooked chips but to do without all the deep frying. We only used a small bench top frier at the moorcock. Big friers in the kitchen make the atmosphere uncomfortable and being the dreamer I was wanted to make the kitchen nicer than most pub kitchens. We had enough to deal with all the smoke from the ovens.

The stages of traditional triple cooked chips are to cut the potatoes into chip shape, boil until softening then chilled.

This converts the potato starch into gelatinised starch, which makes it more digestible, but more importantly makes a starch gel which will make a crisp shell on the outside and bond the potato together as it over cooks so it stays as one piece.

The second stage is to cook the chips again in oil, they are cooked at a temperature which won’t crisp them, this is to dehydrate the potatoes, it removes the moisture from the inside of the potatoes so when it is time to crisp them there is less moisture to make them soggy. Cooking in oil also helps to gelatinise the starch on the outseed of the potato making a firmer skin, the potato can be cooked further than in water without falling apart making a softer fluffier chip.

The potatoes are then cooled and ready for their final fry before serving this time at 180 degrees C. This temperature is enough to make the starch gel around the potato puff and crisp, it creates blisters as the small amount of moisture still within the potato boil and escapes the chip, each time the moisture leaves the potato it ruptures the gelatinised starch exterior making room for a replacement skin and thus a thicker crunchy exterior. The challenge is getting the right amount of moisture for the time it takes for the potato to turn golden. Too little the potato is dry and greasy, too much the skin burns and stays soggy. Its a tight rope. I’m being dramatic, however finding the right potato is the most important part of this recipe.

So there are four stages to this recipe.

Baking, massaging, smoking, frying.

The baking stage gelatinises the starch, the massaging makes the centre of the potato fluffy and soft to mimic the over cooking second fry in triple cooked chips, the smoking dries the outside of the potato thickening the starch layer on the outside and frying crisps the potato.

As you can tell from the detail in this post I have really over thought the process, there will be a lot of notes attached to each stage of the following techniques. Don’t let my inner nerd put you off, its really easy, and worth taking the time at each step.

If you don’t have access to a smoker of bbq large enough to fit a tray of potatoes just leave them on a bench to cool uncovered in the air. They will still be delicious.

Crispy Smoked Potatoes

  1. Wash potatoes well, before placing on a baking tray in a single layer, there is no need to prick them with a fork, keeping the steam inside the potato will help it cook quickly and evenly.

  2. Bake at 180 degrees until soft all the way though. Potatoes come in all sizes and will take different amounts of time. Within reason the rule was it is impossible to over cook them.

  3. Once cooked remove to the bench and allow to cool for 20 minutes.

  4. The next step may require gloves. While still hot individually massage each potato by hand without breaking the skin until the inside feels like mashed potato. Then tear it in half, place the torn side of the potato facing the inside your palm and squeeze it tightly to compress the filling into the outer skin. This needs to be done while the potato is hot so the starches inside the potato are still fluid so it fluffs up properly and so the exposed side of the potatoes flesh can set and create a crisp seal once fried. Otherwise the potato will absorb oil and the inside will be dense. A fresh pair of washing up gloves will help.

  5. Place the torn potatoes back on the tray in a single layer torn side facing up. It is important for the mashed potato be able to loose its excess moisture to evaporation or the potato may burn before it crisps in the frier.

  6. Allow the potatoes to completely cool on the bench for 20 minutes before putting above a smoky bbq for an hour or into a cool but smoking oven for 15 minutes. The air circulation from the flames over the potatoes will help to dry the exterior of the potatoes helping to make a crispier shell.

  7. Allow to cool to fridge temperature.

  8. Heat a deep frier or pot of oil to 180 degrees C.

  9. Fry the potatoes until golden and crispy.

  10. Toss with salt

Enjoy your individually hand massaged potatoes in all their luxury with as decedent an accompaniment as you can rustle together, a super rich mayonnaise or cultured butter.

There is also a super crispy smoked potato we used on the tasting menus which fermented them for 10 days in 1% salt brine. It is mind bendingly good. But who has 2 weeks to spend on fried potatoes. The unadulterated version is a few hours work on their own.

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