Butter-parsley potatoes likely have origins in potatoes lyonnaise, the inherently rustic, classic French preparation with 19th-century roots. As with potatoes lyonnaise, butter-parsley potatoes should be simple -- if you have access to a regular supermarket, you don't have to travail busy farmers markets looking for ingredients. Potatoes lyonnaise call for onions -- they break the smoothness of butter and starch with just enough pungency to heighten the overall flavor of the dish. If you want to take the classic a bit further, consider other aromatics and finishing ingredients, such as garlic and Parmesan cheese.
Good all-purpose potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, Russet and new potatoes, work fine in this dish -- but if you have access to specialty or heirloom potatoes, a few varieties excel:
Yellow Finns have an earthy, unctuous flavor -- as clean and crisp a taste as you'll find in an all-purpose variety. They hold their shape well during frying.
White potatoes' skin crisps marvelously when fried, while their flesh remains fluffy and tender.
Ruby crescents, a fingerling variety, hold their shape well during cooking, and their rosy skin and blushed flesh give the dish striking visual appeal, particularly when combined with a yellow-fleshed variety.
Butter-parsley potatoes require little prep work, but the little prep they do require makes the dish work. You need to blanch the potatoes before you fry them -- just as you do French fries. Blanching partially cooks the potatoes, which shortens the frying time and sets the starch, leading to a crisper texture upon frying.
Clean the potatoes and slice them into 1/2-inch slices. If you have small new potatoes, you can halve them. Blanch the potatoes in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and run cold water over them. After draining, set the potatoes on paper towels to dry and cool to room temperature.
Butter smokes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit -- great for light crisping and browning. Clarified butter hits its smoke point at 450 degrees Fahrenheit -- what you want for frying potatoes before finishing them in a screaming-hot oven. Clarified butter also increases flavor through caramelization. As butter clarifies, the solids brown in the bottom of the pan, perfuming the pure butterfat on top with a nutty, lightly smoky aroma.
Melt 1/2 cup of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat for every pound of potatoes. Cook the butter until the solids sink to the bottom and clear butterfat remains. Skim the foam as needed while the butter clarifies.
Butter-parsley potatoes are referred to as a "loose recipe," meaning that although one cooking method is common it doesn't mean other methods, such as roasting, are verboten. You could even boil potatoes, toss them in melted butter and garnish them with parsley and have butter-parsley potatoes -- but it wouldn't take advantage of what butter and starch can do when combined with high, dry heat. A combination of pan-frying and roasting works best here unless you're only cooking one or two potatoes -- if you have too many potatoes in the pan they don't fry, they steam.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Add 1/4 cup of unclarified butter or clarified butter to an oven-safe frying pan for every 1 pound of potatoes and set it on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and, if desired, sliced onions. Fry the potatoes in batches if needed to prevent overcrowding the pan.
Season the potatoes and onions to taste with kosher salt and saute them until golden but not completely browned. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast the potatoes until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Take the potatoes from the oven and toss them with a copious amount of fresh chopped parsley while still hot.
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