Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hey François, look what I done to your 'taters!

Potato pavé w/ bison Texas red chili and smoked cheddar. © Ryan Schierling
On a preparation scale of one to ten, a baked potato is... a one. You bake the whole potato. On that same scale of one to ten, potato pavé is a ten. It is French fussy, and requires uniformity and a strict adherence to procedure. It is most famously a Thomas Keller recipe from the wildly-popular Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.

Just about every food blogger worth their fleur de sel has already proudly pooped out a proper potato pavé post, per the recipe, and I'm sure they were delicious – but it's all just a little repetitious. It is an exceptionally visually-pleasing dish, spare in its ingredients and simple in its presentation. But I felt like there was more that could be done with these fancy 'taters, something a little more grandiose, something a little more Texan.

So once the pavé was baked, cooled and pressed, I sauteed the cuts in jalapeño-infused olive oil and topped them with a bison Texas red chili, Tillamook smoked cheddar cheese, and a toss of garlic chives. Sometimes you just shouldn't leave well enough alone – you might end up with a dish that is stupides américains, but above and beyond what it was ever intended to be.

Potato pavé

1 cup heavy cream
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds russet potatoes (three 1-pound potatoes if possible)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon softened and 4 tablespoons cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Olive oil

(These are just the ingredients for potato pavé. Googly instructions for potato pavé are all over the internet. Everywhere. There are videos, some of which may include both Thomas Keller and Martha Stewart. I am not reinventing wheels here, I am only showing you how to the rock the ridiculous deuce-deuce chrome ones. See every other food blogger for how to assemble proper potato pavé. Just be aware that it takes about two days since you're baking, then compressing the brick of potatoes in the refrigerator. Might as well start your long-simmering chili to go with it.)

Potato brick. © Ryan Schierling

Bison Texas Red

1 pound ground bison
1 1/2 pounds bison steak, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 whole white onion, diced
6 large jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
3 dried ancho chiles, soaked in water until tender, seeded and pureed with 1 cup of the soaking water
1/2 cup black coffee
1/8 cup ground piloncillo or brown sugar
3 tablespoons chile powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon cinnamon
juice of 1 lime

Soak three dried ancho chiles in water until they are pliable, like delicious soft leather gloves. Remove the stems and seeds and put the chiles into a blender or food processor, adding one cup of the soaking water. Puree.

In a cast iron dutch oven or heavy soup pot, grey the bison steak chunks in a bit of vegetable oil over medium heat, or if you're feeling really randy, use a bit of beef suet. Add the ground bison, the onion and jalapeño peppers and cook until the ground bison is no longer red. Add the ancho chile puree, the black coffee and the piloncillo or brown sugar. Stir well, then adjust the liquid level if needed - if it's too thick, add a bit of water or beer. If it's too thin, don't worry, it'll reduce. Add the salt and rest of the spices. Cover and simmer over low heat for... a long while. About eight hours.

Check every half-hour or so to stir and make sure the consistency is good. If too thick, add a splash of that beer you're sucking on. If too thin, well, it's really never too thin after hours of cooking. Taste it every once in a while, adjust salt if needed. When the chunks of bison steak are finally falling apart, you're ready to add the juice of one lime, and start prepping your pavé.

Per that perfect pavé recipe you found, pull it out of the pan and square the edges off with a knife. Slice it into however many servings you're looking for (I did eight servings from a roughly 10 1/2" by 5 1/2" bread pan), and heat up some oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the pavé blocks on all four cut sides, until browned and just a bit crispy, then remove to a rack with a couple paper towels on it. Plate pavé, top with chili, garnish with slices of smoked cheddar and finely-chopped chives.

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