Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lyonnaise Potatoes

I have a lovely book, Dining on the B&O -- Recipes and Sidelights from a Bygone Age, by Thomas J. Greco and Karl D. Spence.

ISBN 13:  978-0-8018-9323-0
Published in 2009 by The Johns Hopkins University Press and written in association with the B&O Railroad Museum, it is a compilation of recipes used on the B&O Railroad dining cars, many of which came from other sources and contained notes from the chefs who used them.  The authors believe they were compiled in the 1930s or 40s, with the chef notes added possibly in the 1950s.

I like what the authors said about the company's attitude:  "The Baltimore and Ohio viewed its passengers as friends and family and did what any good host would do:  strove to make them feel welcome aboard its trains." (pg. 3)

Apparently it worked:  "The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was noted for its dining car cuisine and service.  The Dining Car and Commissary Department rarely turned a profit, but the railroad believed that if it provided superior dining and impeccable courtesy, it would attract passengers, shippers, and investors." (pg. 3)

What amazes me is the description of the kitchen.  "Entrees were prepared from scratch in a kitchen that occupied a space about 16 feet long and only 7 1/2 feet wide. ... The kitchen was a marvel of efficiency, with only a few feet between the oven, broiler, charcoal grill, and steam table on one side  and the icebox, sinks, and vegetable storage on the other.  No space was wasted..." (pg. 3)

The recipe I decided to try was originally taken from Charles Fellow's The Culinary Handbook, published in 1904.  It is considered "the first purely American institutional cook" because Mr. Fellows attempted to reduce the French influence in the American kitchen.  He focused on "no-frills mid-western cooking methods."  (pg. 9)  His book can be downloaded here:

Lyonnaise Potatoes (pg 111 in the B&O book)

Cold boiled potatoes, either minced or sliced thinly, seasoned with salt and pepper, mixed with a little chopped parsley and fried onions; fried with butter in the form of an omelet.

Chef's Comments
Ingredients for 4 servings

2 Potatoes, boiled, cold
3 tablespoons Butter
1 Onion, 1/4-inch dice
4 tablespoons Parsley, fresh, chopped fine
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Peel the potatoes and place in a pan of cold water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 10 - 20 minutes, depending on the size.  When the potatoes are tender, drain them thoroughly and cool.  Then mince or cut into thin slices.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the onions until they are soft and beginning to turn translucent.  Add the potatoes, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper to the pan and fry, turning with a spatula until evening browned.  

This recipe can be made without simmering the potatoes, but the frying time is a bit longer.  Add the onions and potatoes to the pan at the same time, cover, and lower the heat for 10 minutes or so, then add the parley, salt, and pepper.  With the pan covered, cook until brown and tender.

Dried parsley can be substitutes for fresh; cut the amount to 2 tablespoons.  If the potatoes seem to be getting too dry while cooking, add a little more butter to keep them nice and moist.

I updated the recipe just a little:  Instead of boiling the potatoes, I microwaved them until they were cooked through.  Then I chilled them in the refrigerator.  This was done a few days before I needed them.  It seemed to me that the point was to start with cooked potatoes, so boiling, baking, and microwaving were all valid options.  Also, I didn't peel the potatoes.

So basically I started with cooking the onions and proceeded from there.

Slow cooking makes them sweeter
Once they were starting to look translucent, and smelling heavenly, by the way, I added the rest of the ingredients.

I noticed I needed to scoop carefully with a spatula and turn the potatoes to keep them from breaking up too much while cooking.

The directions, "until evenly browned", I interpreted as "Let sit in the skillet until they smelled good and were crusty" and that was a good decision!

The Verdict
This dish is not pretty to look at.  It does not contain fancy ingredients.  But it sure is tasty and was a marvelous side dish to the Paper Pork (see the July 1, 2013 post).

The onions make the dish.  Because they are cooked so much they are sweet and add little blasts of oniony flavor to offset the blander potato.  I was concerned at first about using an entire onion with only two potatoes but that is just right.  You need lots of onion here!

The butter keeps everything moist and the salt and pepper give it a needed kick.

Normally I fanatically put tomato ketchup on anything potato-related (not baked, though!) and was surprised to discover this dish didn't need it.

So "Success", definitely.  I think it would be a good accompaniment to any robust meat dish because it will not compete with it.

It seemed that Lyonnaise Potatoes would be good also with paprika or bacon or ham added to it.   

via Goode Eates

Put the internet to work for you. via Personal Recipe 3453243

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