Thursday 14 February 2008

Recipe: Potato & Chervil Pie

Having been so damning about Potatoes in my comments on their International Year, it may be from a sense of guilt that I'm now including this recipe - although it's just as likely that thoughts about potato-based dishes have got the gastric juices flowing, and I've been forcefully reminded of this particular recipe, which has to be the best - bar none - recipe for potatoes that I've ever come across. Served hot, as an accompaniment to roast meat of any kind, the texture is unctuous and luxurious, with the combined subtle flavours of Chervil and Garlic acting as a foil to the crisp buttery quality of the crust.....but eaten cold, the next day, when some mysterious alchemy has knitted the flavours and textures together in an even more complex structure then before, this is quite simply manna from Heaven. A slice sneaked cold from the fridge, as you wait for the kettle to boil for early morning tea on the morning after the dinner party of the night before, will have you sighing with pleasure at quite just how good it is!

The two most important things to remember about this recipe are that the potato slices must not be washed or even rinsed, as this will remove the starch which is fundamental to the way the potatoes blend with the cream; and, secondly, that however difficult it may be to come by, you really do need Chervil for this recipe to do itself justice. If you absolutely can't source any, then I suppose a smaller quantity of blandly-flavoured parsley could be substituted - but the end result will very definitely be a compromise from what it could and should have been!

For one 26 cm, deep pie.

Ingredients: one quantity of Shortcrust Pastry, made with 8 oz Butter, 10 oz plain Flour, a generous pinch of Salt, and 50 ml cold Water; 5 medium-sized Potatoes ( a waxy variety, that won't collapse as it cooks); 1 sheet of ready-made Puff Pastry; 250 ml Milk; 250 ml Cream; 1 Garlic Clove, minced; a quantity of Fresh Chervil, chopped finely so that it is equivalent to a Cup measure (before being chopped this will be a sizable amount - probably the equivalent to the capacity of 2 pint jugs); 1 Egg Yolk + 1/4 cup of Milk, to glaze the top of the pie; Salt & Pepper.


1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees C.

2. Grease a 26 cm false-bottomed flan tin, and line the base and sides of it with the Shortcrust Pastry. Set aside in the fridge to rest as you cook the Potatoes.

3. Peel the Potatoes and slice them into 1/8" slices - the broadest setting on the mandolin is generally about right for this. Place in a large pan, add the Garlic and seasoning, then add the Milk. Over medium heat, bring the liquid just to the boil, then allow it to cook for ten minutes, making sure it doesn't come to a full boil. After ten minutes, add the Cream, and continue the process for a further twenty minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to ensure the Potatoes don't stick to the base of the pan.

4. Line the pastry shell with baking weights and bake in the pre-heated oven - ten minutes with the weights in, followed by eight minutes with them out - until the shell is crisp and golden. Lower the oven temperature to 180 degrees C.

5. Fill the Pastry Shell with layers of Potato, alternating them with thin layers of chopped Chervil and a sprinkling of Salt & Pepper; use a slotted spoon as you remove the Potatoes from their pan, so that most of the liquid remains in the pan and doesn't swamp the pie.

6. Make a lid for the pie with the sheet of Puff Pastry. Brush this with the glaze of beaten Egg Yolk mixed with Milk, and make a four or five cuts in the top of the pie to allow steam to evaporate during cooking. Bake for 60 minutes in the pre-heated oven until the top is puffed and golden brown; if it needs longer to achieve this, then give it longer, the filling won't hurt in the process.

Keep warm in plate-warming oven until you're ready to serve it.


No comments: