Kristen Kish’s Braised Baby Potatoes
The new Top Chef host's recipe will be the star-ch of your table
Potatoes are sponges. Grounding and filling, they can pretty much take on any flavor you want them to, and I love finding new ways to cook them. Braising — cooking with fat and liquid to create steam in a sealed vessel — gives potatoes an ideal creamy texture and an optimal infusion of flavor.
For this recipe, I use the tiny baby potatoes you can find sitting right next to their bigger siblings in the market, typically in a mesh bag and often multi-colored. They are perfect for this dish because each little potato cooks quickly and has its own skin to crisp up, keeping the ratio of crisp bits to creamy centers absolutely perfect. If you are vegetarian, swap out the pancetta for shiitake mushrooms or a bacon/sausage meat substitute, and water or simple vegetable stock for the chicken stock, and olive oil for the butter … it’ll deliver a different but equally delicious flavor profile.
This is a delicious and hearty side dish that can go with your favorite roasts, a store-bought rotisserie chicken (because we all need help sometimes), a root vegetable soup, a grilled cheese … basically whatever you want. Food has one rule — enjoy it!
Braised Baby Potatoes With Pancetta, Comté, Sage
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta, cut into a small dice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 pounds small new potatoes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 8 fresh sage leaves
- 2 cups vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
- 3 ounces watercress
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 3 ounces Comté (a hard, mild and slightly sweet French cow’s milk cheese), finely grated
In a wide saucepan — you want the potatoes to lie in one layer — heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it begins to crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the butter and heat until it melts and begins to sizzle. Continue to fry the pancetta in the fat for 2 minutes.
Add the potatoes and, when they begin to brown on one side, roll them in the fat to brown as much of the outside as possible. Season with salt but be careful: potatoes need a fair amount of seasoning, but the pancetta is salty. Grind in some black pepper; I like a lot for this dish. Push the thyme and sage into the bottom of the pan in between the potatoes to brown and crisp these up, too. Once everything is beautiful and golden, add just enough vegetable stock to come halfway to three-fourths of the way up the potatoes. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and allow the liquid to boil and evaporate until the fat is left and you hear a sizzling sound; this signals everything is re-crisping. Cook until crisp and golden, which could take 12 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, dress the watercress with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and the vinegar; season with salt.
To serve, spoon the potatoes onto a platter, sprinkle the cheese on top, and garnish with the watercress salad.
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