Persian-Style Breakfast Potatoes

Cookbook author Raghavan Iyer has a new book out called "Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked -- and Fried Too!" So naturally he's making potatoes for Good Day. He shows off a yummy and cheesy potato gratin with rosemary and makes Persian-style breakfast potatoes with eggs.


Cheesy  Potato Gratin with Rosemary

To witness the French work with pommes de terre ("apples of the earth") is downright enchanting. They have raised the bar in creating such iconic pièces de résistance as potato galettes, potatoes Anna, vichyssoise, and even the ubiquitous hash browns. This gratin, fashioned with layers of thinly sliced potatoes and an herbaceous cream sauce with an abundance of cheese, is an excellent accompaniment to a piece of simply grilled fish or even a robust steak au poivre. Serves 6.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
chilled 2 pounds potatoes (a mix of russets, purple, and red)
1 1/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt
2 cups shredded cheese (such as Gruyère, mozzarella, sharp Cheddar, Havarti, or a blend)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease the inside of a 10½-inch cast-iron skillet or a round 10-by-2-inch baking dish with a little of the butter. Slice the remaining butter into small pieces and keep them chilled as you prepare the gratin.

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Lay out a clean cotton kitchen towel or several layers of paper towels on the counter, for drying the potatoes. Scrub and rinse the potatoes well under running water. Slice them lengthwise with a chef's knife or mandoline into long planks, about ⅛ inch thick. Submerge them in the bowl of water to prevent them from discoloring.

Bring the cream, rosemary, and thyme to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the cream is hot, 2 to 3 minutes, remove it from the heat.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and give the colander a good shake or two to rid the potatoes of excess water. (You don't want to dilute the cream later.) Spread the potatoes on the kitchen towel and dry them well.

Arrange a layer using one-quarter of the potato planks to cover the bottom of the prepared pan, slightly overlapping them. Sprinkle the potatoes with one-quarter each of the peppercorns and salt. Pour one-third of the herbed cream over this. Sprinkle one-third of the shredded cheese over the cream. Repeat with another layer of the potatoes, peppercorns, salt, and half of the remaining cream and cheese. Top with a third layer of potatoes, peppercorns, salt, the remaining cream, and the final portion of cheese. Arrange the remaining potato slices on top of this and sprinkle the remaining peppercorns and salt over them. Scatter the butter pieces on top and cover the pan with aluminum foil.

Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake it until the sauce is bubbly, the potatoes on top are blistered and brown, and the interior potatoes are tender when you pierce the layers with a knife or fork, about 1 hour.

Allow the gratin to cool off a bit before you slice it and serve. I usually cut it into wedges, like pizza slices.               


Persian-Style Potatoes and Eggs

Eggs and potatoes are the proverbial love and marriage among the Parsi community in western India. Originally from Persia (Iran), the Parsis fled around the tenth century after being persecuted by the Muslim rulers because they were followers of the prophet Zarathustra. They were welcomed in India, where they set up new roots and flourished as businessmen in the centuries that followed. Perinne Medora (her son, Zubin, is my webmaster), a Parsi from Mumbai now settled in California, talked about the prevalence of potatoes (called seb-i-zaminee, which literally translates to "apples of the earth," just like the French pommes de terre) and eggs at every meal. This recipe, a family favorite over the years, is comfort food whenever Zubin stops by for a visit to Perinne's home. Serves 4

2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 slices fresh ginger (each about the size and thickness of a quarter; no need to peel first), finely chopped
1 or 2 fresh green serrano chiles, stems discarded, finely chopped (do not remove the seeds)
1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
8 large eggs

Fill a medium-size bowl halfway with cold water. Peel the potatoes. Shred them through the large holes of a box grater, the fine teeth of a mandoline, or the shredding disk of a food processor. Immediately transfer the shreds to the bowl of water to rinse off some of their surface starch and to prevent them from discoloring due to oxidation.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil appears to shimmer, add the onion, ginger, and chiles and cook them, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the onion slices are light brown around the edges and the chiles smell pungent, 5 to 8 minutes.

As the onion medley cooks, drain the potato shreds in a colander and give them a good rinse under cold running water to wash off the starch. Spread out several layers of paper towels on the counter, for drying the potatoes. Give the colander a good shake or two to rid the potatoes of excess water. Spread out the shreds on the towels and pat them dry, to make for splatter-free pan-frying.

Stir the salt and turmeric into the onions. Add the potato shreds and give it all a good stir. Cover the pan and cook without stirring to allow the underside to brown lightly, 5 to 8 minutes. Flip the potatoes over (use two spatulas, one on either side-or if you have one large spatula, that works great, too) and cook, covered, on the other side for an additional 5 to 8 minutes.

Break up the browned potatoes with a spatula to expose the softer, creamier shreds within. Sprinkle on the cilantro. Make 8 little concave "nests" in the potato surface. Crack an egg into each of these nests. Cover the pan and allow the eggs to cook, without stirring, until the whites are soft-steamed and the egg yolks are set but still sun yellow under the film of white, 3 to 5 minutes.

Either set the whole skillet on the table as is, or gently scoop out a portion of potatoes along with 2 eggs per person. Serve warm.

LINK: www.raghavaniyer.com

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