Pavé potatoes are something I hadn’t heard of until recently. I mean really outside of professional cooks who has heard of pavé potatoes and what even are they? Pavé is French for paving stone and in culinary terms generally refers to a slice. In this case, pavé potatoes are layered a bit like dauphinoise or boulangère so they’ve got lots of very thin slices on top of each other cooked with a bit of butter. Served like that they’re delicious and rich but to really push them over the edge you cool them down, slice them thickly (like a pavé stone) and roast them until crisp and crunchy. At that point they’re the single most decadently delicious roast potato you’ve ever had, somehow creamy and crisp at the same time, buttery and sweet yet savoury and intense. I mean pavé potatoes, who knew and if they knew why didn’t they tell me sooner?
For me it all started at the Quality Chop House restaurant in Farringdon. It’s an amazing restaurant, the kind of place that serves minced meat on toast and has your jaw drop. I mean how can minced meat on toast taste that good – outrageous. They have a dish on the menu called confit potatoes with mustard mayonnaise which totally rock. So, after a bit of asking the chef and a bit of research I ended up at the doorstep of pavé potatoes. Some more research and a few trial runs later I’ve finally nailed my ideal recipe for these potatoes, having borrowed a bit from Thomas Keller’s recipe from his cookbook “Ad Hoc, at Home”. It’s a little bit of a labour of love, but like my recipe for classic crispy roast potatoes you can do a lot of the work in advance so they’re perfect for dinner parties.
First decision with any potato dish is which potato should you use. Basically there are three main types of potato (although it’s really a continuum driven by moisture and starch); Starchy and fluffy, Waxy and All Purpose. For roast potatoes you want crispiness and fluffiness so you go for a starchy potato with crispiness coming from the surface starch as it cooks. You want these pavé potatoes to crisp up as well so you’d think you want the same potato. However, you also want the individual slices to hold their shape as they cook and a fluffy potato will break down and collapse. Holding their shape is something waxy potatoes are really good at, think potato salad. So your best bet here is to go for an all purpose potato like Yukon Gold, Maris Piper or King Edward that will hold its shape whilst still going crispy and delicious.
Classically pavé potatoes are finished by cooking in a pan. In a restaurant, they’d use a buttered piece of greaseproof paper to help stop them sticking to the pan and they’d crisp them in clarified butter or duck fat. Like that they taste amazing but they are very fiddly as they tend to stick to the pan and need you to pay them close attention to make sure they don’t burn. Too cold a pan and they’ll stick before they crisp, too hot a pan and they’ll burn horribly. In short it’s a pain, but it does get the best results. For me, roasting them in a hot oven just like you would roast potatoes is a compromise solution. The pavé potatoes come out of the oven shatteringly crispy and golden with a buttery melting centre that would make fondant potatoes jealous. You can cook do all the layering and cooking in advance and simply need half an hour in a hot oven before serving. I whack them in the oven when my guests arrive and by the time chit chat, starters and wine has happened they’re ready to go. I put them in at 180 but they’ll be ok up to 200 which means they can be very flexible if you want to cook something else in the oven. They also don’t mind being in there for an hour at 180 – they won’t burn and will get crispier. All in all, in my mind it makes them perfect for no stress dinner parties, the TimedEating way. Plus they’re delicious and the name just sounds fancy – I mean, pavé potatoes anyone?
Pavé potatoes (Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cook book)
- 1.25kg of peeled all rounder potato (exact quantity depends on the size of your loaf pan but try and find larger potatoes)
- 1/2 cup double cream
- 125g unsalted butter
- A few sprigs of thyme. Leaves picked and chopped finely.
- Preheat your oven to 180 celsius.
- Pour the cream into large bowl. Slice the potatoes on a mandolin if you have one directly into the cream. If you don’t then try and slice them finely by hand or in a food processor with the appropriate blade. You want them thin but not translucent. On mandolin that’s about 1/8th of an inch thick. Toss the potatoes with the cream to prevent oxidisation.
- Brush a loaf tin with a little butter and line with greaseproof paper allowing some greaseproof to hang over the edges. This will make them a lot easier to remove. Place one layer of potato in the loaf tin allowing the cream to drip off and season well with salt, thyme and black pepper. Add a few knobs of butter and repeat with another layer of potato, placing the butter and seasoning between every second layer of potato.
- Once all the potato has been layered, fold some of the excess greaseproof paper over the top so it is covered. Wrap the whole loaf tin tightly in aluminium foil and place int he oven for around 50 minutes to 1 hour. You can test when the potatoes are done by inserting a metal skewer – you should meet no resistance.
- If you want you can serve at this point as a delicious gratin type dish. However, to make pavé potatoes remove the foil, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge with a weight on top to compress the potatoes and force them to stick to each other. They can stay like this in the fridge for up to a week.
- Once cooled, remove from the pan and trim the edges – they make a delicious chef’s treat! Cut into one inch thick slices and refrigerate covered in cling film until needed.
- To roast, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a pan with a silicone mat (or greaseproof paper) and place the slices on the pan, cut side down (unlike the header photo). Toss with a little duck fat or vegetable oil. Place in the oven for around 40 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Serve immediately
- If you want to cook in a pan then heat a good layer of canola oil or clarified butter in a very non-stick pan over a medium heat and cook on each cut side (the thick side that looks layered) for 5-10 minutes until golden and crisp. You don’t want the heat too aggressive or they’ll burn before you get an even browning. Serve immediately.
TimedEating tips and tricks for making Pavé Potatoes ahead:
- The potatoes can be stored up to a week once cooked and pressed.
- If you’re storing the sliced potatoes in the fridge on the tray you will roast them in, make sure to turn them before cooking or else they will stick.
- Once sliced, they freeze well. Simply freeze them in one layer to prevent sticking before transferring to a bag in the freezer. To reheat, defrost in the fridge and roast as per the recipe.
- If you’re in a pinch, they can be roasted from frozen but it will take about half an hour longer to crisp up
- If you run out of time whilst slicing before you get a chance to layer them. Make sure they’re completely submerged in the cream and pop them in the fridge. The cream will stop the potatoes from oxidising for a few hours until you have time to get back to it.