Jules Collinet, chef for King Louis-Philippe of France, created Pommes de terre soufflés, aka, Pommes Souffles, aka Souffle Potatoes by accident by when he unintentionally plunged already fried potatoes into extremely hot oil to reheat them for the King. The potatoes were well received by the monarch, so Collinet created Sauce Béarnaise to accompany his potato puffs. He named the sauce for Henri IV, another French monarch who reigned from 1586-1610, who hailed from the province of Béarn, and who was known as “le Grand Béarnaise.” Henri IV was known as a gourmand and Pommes Souffles et Sauce Béarnaise were served at the 1836 opening of Le Pavillon Henri IV, a restaurant in the suburbs of Paris. The obscenely delicious, addictive combination now holds an understandable place of honor on the menus at several New Orleans’ old-line, grand French-Creole restaurants including Arnaud’s, Antoine’s, and Galatoire’s.
For the second year in a row, the century-old Arnaud’s will celebrate the culinary day of recognition it created in homage to the potato puffs. Next Friday, September 30, is National Soufflé Potato Day and Arnaud’s is going all in with the Pommes Soufflé Soiree, featuring a three-course, prix fixe luncheon for $55 per person (plus tax and gratuity) and one attendee will be chosen at random to receive free Pommes Souffles and Béarnaise for a year.
It should be noted that Norris Sam Jr. is responsible for making all of Arnaud’s souffle potatoes and he takes considerable pride in the job he has held for nearly 20 years.
National Souffle Potato Day will culminate National Potato Month, which is recognized annually in September. I confirmed this information by looking at the National Day Calendar, which is trademarked by a company called Zoovio, Inc. I don’t know which, if any, legislative body bequeathed the Power to Set the Days to Zoovio, but, as I did when I first wrote about this practice back in July, I am still gunning for an Everyone a Millionaire Day, as well as a No More Debt for All Day. I will share my progress when these days come to be but, for now, I return my focus to the fun time the Pommes Souffle Soiree is certain to afford.
The menu is as follows:
Souffle Potatoes with Sauce Bearnaise
First Course, choice of Shrimp Remoulade; Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms and Spinach; Butter Lettuce Salad with Shaved Onion, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Spiced Walnuts, Sherry Vinaigrette; or Potato and Leek Soup
Entrée, choice of Pan-Seared Gulf Shrimp with Panéed Mirliton and Mirliton Slaw; Potato-Encrusted Red Snapper with Creamed Leeks, Pommes Puree, and Warm Dill Vinaigrette; Jumbo Lump Crabcakes with White Remoulade and a Petite Salad; Or Roasted Cornish Game Hen with Porcini Mushroom and Artichoke Ragout
Dessert, choice of Apple Butter Pie or Sweet Potato Spice Cake
Reservations are available from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. In addition, mini martinis made with potato vodka will be available to order, there will be a DJ, and other “surprises and delights.” That evening, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar will offer orders of Pommes Souffles and Béarnaise and a specialty cocktail for just $9.30.
No dough to go to Arnaud’s, you say? The last time I checked, potatoes remained thriftily priced at the grocery store. If making the sauce seems like a hassle just buy a package of Knorr Béarnaise mix in the packaged sauce section of the grocery and follow the instructions on the back of the package. I cheat this way all the time and it works just fine.
Pommes Soufflés with Sauce Béarnaise
- 1 gallon vegetable oil for frying
- 6 Idaho potatoes, scrubbed
- Sauce Béarnaise (recipe follows)
Heat the oil to 325°F.
While the oil heats; slice the potatoes lengthwise 1/8” thick using a mandoline or very sharp knife. Trim the square corners from either end of the strips of potato. The result will be a long oval shape.
Place the potatoes into the 325°F oil, not more than two layers thick. Overloading the pot will cause the temperature to drop. To maintain a consistent temperature, move the potatoes constantly with a slotted spoon. Cook the potatoes for 4 to 5 minutes, until light brown. Some will form small air bubbles. This is an indication that the meat of the potato has cooked away. Once they have become inflated, remove the potatoes from the hot oil and set aside to cool until just prior to serving.
When you are ready to serve the potatoes, increase the temperature of the oil to 375°F. Place the potatoes back into the oil and they will puff instantly. Cook for an additional 30 seconds, until they are golden brown and crispy enough to hold their form without deflating. Remove the potatoes from the oil and drain them on paper towels. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Serve at once.
Note: To prepare this dish in advance cook the potatoes until they puff and immediately remove them from the 375° oil and lay flat on a sheet pan. Place wax paper between the layers of potatoes. To serve, reheat the oil to 375°, add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and crispy enough to hold their form without deflating.
Makes 3 cups
Not just for Pommes Souffles, Sauce Béarnaise is good on anything. Life is simply too short to live without Bearnaise Sauce.
1/4 cup tarragon-flavored vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of dried tarragon leaves
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped scallions (green parts only)
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- 6 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 cups clarified butter
Place the vinegar, tarragon leaves, scallions, and parsley in a small pan over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes until all the liquid has cooked out of the pan leaving the tarragon leaves, green onions and parsley still moist. Set aside.
Make a Hollandaise Sauce. In a double boiler set over medium heat combine the egg yolks with the cold butter, salt, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Whisk the ingredients continuously until the mixture has increased in volume and achieved a consistency that coats the whisk. Use a ladle to drizzle the clarified butter into the sauce while whisking slowly. If the sauce appears to thick, add a few drops of cold water to achieve the proper consistency.
When the Hollandaise Sauce is complete whisk in the tarragon reduction.
That’s it from me. Fine something to celebrate this weekend then get after it.