The potato can take credit for population booms and mass migrations so in her new cookbook "Haute Potato" Jacqueline Pham says it's high time to pay proper homage to the humble vegetable.
Potatoes get a bad rap for their "commonness," says Pham, since most of them are consumed as french fries, potato chips or mashed potatoes. But they don't have to be limited to such plebian uses, she argues.
As a multi-ethnic cook, Pham thinks of the potato as an international passport of sorts. She showcases the potato in everything from main dishes to desserts.
"Give the Lavender Peruvian Purple Potato White Chocolate Torte a try; it's one of my family's favorites," Pham said.
Many of her recipes feature elegant and exquisite dishes that originate in Africa, India, Asia and France. There's nary an Irish-inspired dish in the book, but her Pesto Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes would make a perfectly colored dish with which to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
"I was born and raised in Paris, France, to Vietnamese immigrants. From early on I was exposed to both cultures and cuisines," she said. Now living in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, the child of immigrant parents from India, she's also learned a lot about Indian cuisine.
"His grandmother was an excellent home cook, and she taught me a lot about Indian cuisine. So that's why you'll find French, Indian and Vietnamese dishes both on my website and in my first cookbook." She blogs at phamfatale.com.
Despite all the French-inspired dishes in her new cookbook, Pham says she's never attended a cooking class of any kind.
"I believe cooking is fun, and as long as you have the heart for it, anyone can cook," she said.
Here are some favorite recipes from the book:
HASSELBACK POTATOES WITH SAUCE VERTE
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
2 teaspoons sea salt, to taste
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 medium-size new potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch curly parsley
1 clove pickled garlic, finely minced
2 cornichons (French gherkin pickles, drained)
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers, drained
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Meyer lemon, freshly squeezed
Making the garlic-flavored butter: Place 3 cloves garlic in a mortar and pestle. Add the pepper and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Blend the garlic into a thick paste and mix with the softened butter. Soften the mixture with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Parboiling the potatoes: Wash the potatoes, cover with cold water, add 1 teaspoon salt and boil for 5-6 minutes until still firm. Drain thoroughly and let potatoes cool enough to handle. Cut a thin slice to flatten one long side of the potato, creating a base so it remains stable while roasting.
Preheave oven to 425 degrees and make a series of cuts toward the base of each potato, slicing it into 1/8-inch thick slices but making sure you don't cut all the way through the base so the slices remain attached. Brush a baking pan with olive oil. Place potatoes on it and bake for approximately 2 minutes, to dry them completely. Remove pan from oven and, using a butter knife, spread a thin layer of garlic butter mixture between each slice. Return to oven and roast for about 45 minutes. When there's a nice brown crust and the potatoes open like a fan, they're ready. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.
Sauce Verte: Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon sea salt over parsley and pickled garlic. Finely chop mixture into almost a puree. Add the cornichons and capers and coarsely chop. Transfer to a bowl and add mustard, squeeze of lemon juice and 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir well and cover until ready to serve. To serve, fill the potato accordions with sauce verte at room temperature.
PESTO BUTTERMILK MASHED POTATOES
1/2 bunch curly parsley
1/2 bunch sweet basil
1 clove pickled garlic
1/4 cup pistachios, lightly toasted
1/4 cup pecorino cheese
1/2 lemon, zested and freshly squeezed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt, or regular salt
3/4 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
3 pounds russet potatoes (about 5 large)
1/3 cup milk, room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, diced
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
Pesto: Blanch parsley and basil for 10 seconds in boiling water, then plunge into an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain them, pat dry on a paper towel and roughly chop. In mini-food processor or blender, combine herbs, garlic, pistachios, cheese, lemon juice and zest and pulse while slowly adding olive oil to make a smooth paste. If too thick, thin with a few teaspoons of water. Season to taste.
Peel potatoes and cut them into 2-inch chunks and boil and cook for 20-25 minutes. The potatoes should be fork-tender. Drain and let cool but do not rinse.
Once cooled enough to handle, return potatoes to pot for 2-3 minutes over low heat to remove as much liquid as possible. Turn off heat. Mash potatoes with a masher or ricer and add milk, butter and 3 tablespoons of pesto. Stir well. Add the buttermilk until you reach the desired consistency, season with salt and white pepper. Top the potatoes with the remaining pesto and lightly stir to create a swirl. Serve warm.
LAVENDER PERUVIAN PURPLE POTATO WHITE CHOCOLATE TORTE
2 purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes
10 ounces white chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh lavender
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon lavender extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 10-inch frozen puff pastry
2 whole eggs, separated
2 teaspoons powdered sugar, for dusting
Cook potatoes for 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain and let cool, but do not rinse. Gently remove the skin and grate them coarsely.
To make lavender-flavored cream, finely chop white chocolate bar. Combine cream and 1 tablespoon lavender over high heat. Bring to near boil. Turn off heat and add chocolate and 10 tablespoons butter. Using spatula, stir until chocolate is smooth. Strain through fine mesh and discard all lavender bits.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roll dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and place dough in a 8-inch deep-dish pie plan lined with parchment. Press out air bubbles and trim to slightly above pan edge. Prick dough all over with fork. Chill dough for 20-30 minutes in refrigerator.
Mix 4 egg yolks with sugar until pale yellow. Add lavender extract, if using, and vanilla extract, stir well. Combine the potatoes and egg mixture and slowly add lavender cream a ladle at a time to prevent the yolks from curdling. In another bowl, add 1/8 teaspoon salt to egg whites and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed until frothy. Pour 1/3 of egg whites into potato mixture to soften batter, then fold in remaining egg whites. Fill tart pan with cake batter and bake for 20-25 minutes until torte puffs slightly. Check for doneness.
Grind 1 teaspoon lavender with powdered sugar and dust torte with lavender sugar before serving warm with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
If you don't have fresh lavender, substitute dried or 1 tablespoon lavender extract.