Tater tots of our childhoods can hold great importance and significance. Those frozen nubs of potatoes that come out of industrial-sized bags, lovingly portioned out by hair-netted lunch ladies…those are some serious taste memories. So when chefs elevate this much loved American food of our collective childhoods, we pay attention. David Kinch, the chef and owner of the three Michelin-starred Manresa, takes tater tots and puts them on steroids. He uses just four ingredients: starchy potatoes, thyme, salt, and the secret component that ‘roids up these tots: duck fat.
RECIPE FOR POMMES PAILLASSON
4 large russet potatoes
4 quarts rendered duck fat (or enough to fill fryer)
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste
- Fill the fryer with duck fat and set the temperature to 200°F.
- Once the fat is hot, outfit a food processor with a medium/fine shredding disc, peel the potatoes, and shred them into long strings.
- Carefully add all of the potatoes to the duck fat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Once the potatoes are completely tender, and almost falling apart, remove them from the duck fat, and let drain in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl.
- Finely chop the thyme leaves while the potatoes drain and then transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Season them with sea salt and gently fold in the thyme until completely incorporated.
- Line a quarter sheet pan or 9” x 13” rectangular baking pan with parchment paper and spread the potato mixture into a layer about ¾” thick. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
- Once the potatoes have completely chilled, reheat the duck fat to 350°F. Slide the parchment paper out of the sheet pan and onto a flat surface being careful not to break the potato slab. Portion the pommes into rectangular batons that are approximately ¾” x ¾” x 2 ½” long.
- When ready to fry, add the pommes one at a time into opposite corners of the fryer. They have a strong tendency to stick to one another so spacing them out is crucial. Fry only 6 to 8 pieces at a time so you don’t overcrowd them or drastically drop the temperature of the oil. Turn pommes occasionally until golden on all sides, about 4 minutes.
To Serve: Let the pommes drain by resting the fryer basket on its ledge for a minute or two. Transfer finished pommes to a paper towel lined serving dish and season with sea salt while they are still hot.