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Friday, October 12, 2012

Two New Recipes At Once

The "pommes Maxim's" men... from my latest cookbook, Chez Maxim's

THE above almost was one of my prior maître d' uniforms... except that I didn't wear a white bow tie--mine was black (and I didn't have a fancy tray of hot potatoes to carry about). My latest recipe attempt is from the 1962 cookbook, Chez Maxim's: Secrets and Recipes from the World's Most Famous Restaurant. After flipping through the book's pages, I was thrilled to have found a singular cookbook from which I could draw enough recipes to make a proper (three course) meal. (using recipes from various sources can sometimes lead to a "disjointed" dinner) I decided to attempt the simplest recipe first: pommes Maxim's (scalloped potato cake).

this recipe calls for no less than 2½ sticks of butter

At the supermarket, I referred to my shopping list which listed two sticks of butter (I had another at home), but for the amount of potatoes, I recalled from memory: one pound. To my surprise, one pound of potatoes was not even two (potatoes)! For a moment, I thought that I had mis-memorized the recipe (How could two and a half sticks of butter be used for less than two potatoes?). Yet, I was dealing with a French recipe; I took faith that my memory had served me correctly.

as Judith Jones once said,
"How can you cook well without using butter?"

Home: after peeling; washing; and drying the two potatoes, I started slicing thin slices, removing about a quarter wedge so that my 1.4 pounds would equal the one pound that the recipe had called for. Reaching for the butter which I'd melted in the oven as it was pre-heating, I drenched the potatoes (seasoned with salt and freshly-ground black pepper) in a large baking pan.

potatoes well-bathed in butter

The next step was forty minutes in a hot (425°) oven. Forty minutes later, this is what I'd pulled out:

sizzling hot butter

I'd left the potatoes unchecked for a full forty minutes; they came out a bit "well-done." Yet, upon first bite they'd tasted as good as my kitchen had been smelling... if not better! I had to stop myself from my oven-side sampling, lest I ruin my appetite for dinner.

both crispy and tender
Pommes Maxim's

Meanwhile, while keeping the "pommes Maxim's" warm in the oven, I'd begun the first steps in making sii.

sii: a use for stale bread

I'd found the recipe for sii back when I first began bringing home day-old bread from work (which is thrown out otherwise). What drew me to the recipe, initially, was that you could use the stalest of stale breads to make it. (traditionally it uses Valaisian rye bread, which after a week requires an axe to cut it)

the first step is cutting the bread into walnut-sized pieces

After cutting the bread into the appropriate sizes, I covered them in a "strong red wine."

"the next day even the hardest bread will be soft"

... and a handful of raisins soaking
in a separate container

By tomorrow, if all goes well, I'll be having this for dessert (or breakfast):

sii served with freshly-whipped cream

Pommes Maxim's (Scalloped Potato Cake)
Serves 2-3

1 lb. potatoes
1 ½ cups butter
Freshly ground pepper

  • Melt the butter. 
  • Peel the potatoes, wash and dry them, and cut them in small thin slices. 
  • Put in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, pour in the melted butter, and mix thoroughly together.
  • Spread a shallow layer (about ½ inch thick) of these potatoes over the bottom of a large well-buttered ovenware dish. Bake in a hot oven (425°) for about 40 minutes or until crisp and golden. 
  • Turn out of the dish onto a warmed serving platter.

Adapted from the cookbook, Chez Maxim's: Secrets and Recipes from the World's Most Famous Restaurant, available at Amazon.com.
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