Why the go-to? Because it goes with so many dishes. From steak to chicken, duck breasts to fish. You name it! This is the most versatile side dish you can imagine. Virtually any pan-fried dish will go with it. On the other hand, I personally won’t pair it with stews, but – hey! – nothing’s ever perfect in this world.
My love affair with sautéed potatoes started a long time ago. For French kids – at least for my generation and the previous ones – that was probably the most common way of eating potatoes, along with frites, obviously… When short of ideas – or time – my mum was relying heavily on the good old sautéed potatoes. How many times have I heard her say: “ Tonight, it’s ham, sautéed potatoes and mayonnaise!”. And I can still see her reaching for the bowl of pre-cooked potatoes in the fridge (she always had some par-boiled…), while effortlessly whisking in the oil for her mayo on the side. It was like a perfectly choreographed ballet. Flipping the potatoes with a brisk wrist movement, then whisking her mayo, going from one to the other in a seamless manner.
In case you ever wonder why they are called sautéed potatoes, “sauter” means To Jump in French…just kidding, it’s just the name of a cooking technique originating from the sauté pan. It’s fun… and also, people will just assume you have genuine cooking skills and technique!
And then, there were the sautéed potatoes at the restaurant. Different, more grown-up, but I was unable to say WHY they were different…Years later, I finally discover what made the difference : It was all down to the type of potatoes! My lovely mum was then using mainly Bintje potatoes (and she still probably does…), commonly known in France (and Belgium) for being one of the best for frites, therefore they are a variety of what’s called fluffy potatoes. But the restaurants were using what is known as salad or waxy potatoes!
Ze importance of ze potato… You can find an incredible variety of salad potatoes. From Jersey Royals (especially small ones), to Charlotte, Baby Gem to Maris Peer. You’ll find these everywhere. Recently, I discovered the Anya, smooth and buttery, with a wonderful nutty taste. You can also use what is labelled New Potatoes. There – as for the Jersey Royals – try to go for the smallest. So, why waxy ? Two main reasons: First, they won’t stick to the pan, allowing a lovely crust to form (and you can flip them effortlessly). Secondly, they will keep their shape. If you were to use fluffy or floury ones, they will disintegrate rapidly, and at the second flip, you’re gonna find yourself with bits and pieces of potato scattered around your pan. And last but by no means least: the texture. You want to keep a bite to these lovelies. Why small? Ideally, you would achieve a bite a piece by only halving or quartering these gems, and they will keep their skin on. The goal is to be able to firmly stick your fork in one, and mop either a sauce, or simply their own oozing buttery / herby goodness.
Ze method of ze cooking… As with any classic, everyone’s got an opinion on how to achieve the best result – sometimes radically different! Even in France, there are two main opposite schools as how to cook the potatoes: Par-boiled, halved or quartered, then pan-fried (unpeeled) OR peeled, cubed, washed and directly pan-fried. Actually, both give delicious results. So, to make the distinction between the two – as well as avoiding a possible new revolution, or at least a general strike – it is commonly accepted that the first method will be labelled as “sautées”, and the second one will be referred to as “rissolées”…but there also, because it’s the French – and arguing endlessly is somewhat a national sport – the consensus is not a given.
Sautéed Potatoes: The go-to…Course: SidesCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Easy
300g waxy potatoes
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 heaped tbsp of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt & pepper
- First, parboil the potatoes. Put your potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer. The whole process should take 15 to 20 minutes. We want these potatoes to be still firm, so from the 15th minute, prick them with the tip of a sharp knife. You will have reached the perfect ‘doneness’ when the knife easily slides in.
- Once parboiled, put your potatoes on a board and halve or quarter them, depending on the size. Remember: the goal is to have these bite size. While cutting, put a (large) saucepan on medium-high heat with the butter.
- As soon as the butter starts to foam, tip the potatoes in, and toss regularly.
- When the potatoes start to brown a bit, sprinkle the parsley on top, and season the lot to your taste, and keep tossing. Serve and enjoy!