Straw Potato Cake

For whatever reason, Lyons has more culinary specialities associated with it than any other French city. These include charcuterie, Lyonnaise potatoes, which are shallow-fried and mixed with fried onions, and the potato dish called pommes paillasson – straw potato cake.

Ingredients

  • 900 g/ 2 lb baking potatoes
  • 60 g/ 2 oz unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 115 g/ 4 oz butter

Method

Peel the potatoes and put them through a rotary food-mill fitted with a shredding disc or use the designated disc on your food processor to produce the longest strings you can. Rinse them in cold water, drain through a colander, roll up in a tea towel and squeeze gently to get them as dry and starch-free as possible.

In a large, and preferably shallow, frying pan set over a low heat, melt 60 g/ 2 oz of the unsalted butter, brushing to coat the sides. Season generously with salt and pepper, then pack the potato strings into the pan, pressing them down with a spatula to form a coherent mass, ideally domed in the middle because as it cooks down and moisture evaporates, this is where it will sink and you want to finish with as flat a top as possible. Season lightly.

Dice 30 g/ 1 oz of the remaining butter and dot it evenly round the edge. As it melts and trickles down this helps prevent burning. Put on a lid and cook for 20–25 minutes, keeping the heat low and turning the pan to ensure the base cooks to a uniform crunchy brown finish. Every 5 minutes remove the lid and wipe out condensation. Shake the pan only after 20 minutes. If it has stuck, gently work a spatula round the sides, pushing it under the cake at different points until it slides easily.

Turn the potato cake out by putting a large flat plate on top of the pan and turning it and the pan upside down together.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan and slide the cake back in on the other side for another 10–15 minutes. Alternatively, dot the top with the butter and finish under a grill on a low setting.

When done, slide the potato cake on to a warmed plate and serve it cut into wedges.

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