An Evening with Boardwalk Empire: Delmonico Potatoes, Officially My New Guilty Pleasure

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm warning you right now, these potatoes are SO good but so fatty and bad for you. But you'll make this anyway and eat them and be in heaven.

For the main course of our Boardwalk Empire inspired menu, I took a cue from famous New York steakhouse Delmonico's at the time and did a simple Delmonico style top sirloin (salt, pepper, grilled) and their famous Delmonico Potatoes to go with. I did lots of research on the potatoes and found a few variations. The common theme includes: cubed potatoes, white sauce, melted cheese on top. Some variations had the potatoes cut in hash shape (or shredded), while others included breadcrumbs in the topping mixture. One even had sliced tomatoes. I took a really simple approach and added my own twist on top with some paprika for color. The potatoes are tender, savory without being overpowering, hot and comforting and just so amazing, complimenting the steak just perfectly.

par-cooked potatoes smothered in the white sauce

For this recipe I made it completely from scratch, cubing the potatoes myself and then blanching them in hot water. You can make this a totally week night friendly meal by using a bag of frozen cubed potatoes or even the hashbrown style potatoes (unseasoned -- just the shredded kind) instead to cut down on about 20 minutes of prep time. I also made the white sauce from scratch which is basically an alfredo sauce. Another corner cutter is to use a jarred alfredo, but I personally find making my own so easy and I can control the flavor and salt much better.

As for the cheese you must use cheddar. I used a sharp English cheddar because that's what I love and that's what I had, but any cheddar (white or orange) will do just fine. I used Hungarian paprika, but you can use regular if you like. Smoked would even be amazing in this. Just go light with the dusting -- you're using the paprika here for color more than flavor!

Delmonico Potatoes
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely minced white onion
kosher salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (or 1 cup of half n half in place of the whole milk + cream)
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
4 lbs brown potatoes (like russett or idaho), peeled and diced small then blanched*
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
pinch of paprika for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large saute pan or pot. Add the onions and season with some salt. Saute for a minute or two, then add the garlic and saute another minute, stirring often so as not to burn the onions and garlic. Add the flour all at once and mix in. You're creating a roux between the butter and flour, so you'll notice the mixture clump up together after about 30 seconds. Cook the flour out about a minute, then add the cream (or half n half) a little at a time, stirring it into the roux as you go. You'll see every time you add the liquid the roux will clump up; this is normal, just stir it well to make it all blend together. Once the cream has been added, add the milk slowly but all at once, and give it all a good stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off heat.

Stir in the parmesan cheese (off the heat) until it's nicely melted into the sauce. If your pan or pot is large enough, add the potatoes right in and give it a good fold; conversely place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl then pour the white sauce over them. Don't stir the potatoes because that will break up the pieces; rather using a gentle folding technique to cover them with the sauce.

topped with shredded cheese, parsley, and a dash of paprika for color
Pour the sauced potatoes into a baking dish, then top with the parsley, cheese, and paprika. At this point you can cover and refrigerate until ready to bake (even make it a day before). Place in oven and cook until top is golden and bubbly, about 10-15 minutes. Remove and let stand for 2 minutes before serving. Serve hot or at room temperature (better hot!)

baked to golden, oozing perfection
*To blanch the potatoes, simply bring a pot of cold water salted with 3 Tbsp of kosher salt to a roaring boil. Dump the cubed potatoes inside the water all at once, and cook for about 5-8 minutes or until a knife can just start to penetrate though. You don't want the potatoes cooked like for mashed potatoes (too soft), nor for them to still be raw (too hard). When the knife or fork just begins to penetrate the outside, the poatoes are done.


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