Give me a sizzling roast and a jumble of crisp-edged potatoes and all will be right with the world. I'm not alone in this sentiment. In France, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, the man who helped introduce the potato to the land of sauce-laden meats, is practically a national hero, and, by some accounts, true human happiness began in 1767, when he supervised a potato feast for Louis XVI at the court of Versailles. Benjamin Franklin was rumored to be in attendance, as was Marie Antoinette, a bouquet of potato blossoms purportedly in her hair.

Years later, Thomas Jefferson served french fries in the White House, and American civilization officially began. To talk about cooking, at least in my mind, is to talk about cooking potatoes.

Russian fingerlings sizzling in a roasting pan beneath a leg of lamb. Cumin-walloped O'Briens that go so well with country ham on Saturday mornings. Plain old Idahos, cut so thin as to be transparent, which Daniel Boulud taught us to wrap around sea bass. The repertoire of potato gratins so crucial to Sunday-evening contentment that it should be taught in schools alongside algebra. After all, nobody wants to be that meat-and-parsnips guy.

When you see "Parmentier" on a menu in Paris, you know that you are about to encounter a particularly refined version of some dish involving potatoes, quite possibly beef stew or lamb mince buried beneath a bubbling, browned layer of mashed potatoes. And you know that you are in the right place. For me, hold the truffles.


Text by Jonathan Gold


Be the first to comment!