There are many, many recipes for this regional dish, but the common ingredients are potatoes, duck fat, garlic and parsley. And really, what could be better? Supposedly every single one of the 60 plus restaurants in Sarlat, this dish’s namesake, serve this low-calorie delicacy of the Dordogne. There is enough variation that it might be amusing to try to slog through all of them, but I am not sure that my liver could handle the workout.
My version is one of the simplest. Cut good quality potatoes into ½” cubes, boil them for a few minutes, drain and allow to dry and come to room temperature. Then, and this is the only important part, Scoop a large quantity of duck fat into a large sauté pan and heat until smoking. What, you don’t have duck fat? Then buy some, or even better, roast a few ducks and render your own. That’s fun, and you get the lovely bonus of roast duck! Anyway, when the fat is smoking, add the potatoes, toss to coat with the fat, and leave undisturbed for several minutes while the potatoes brown in the fat. Toss them again, but only after they have browned. With this dish, patience is indeed a virtue. You might need to add a bit more duck fat, but that is an unabashedly good thing. When the potatoes are nicely browned and crispy all over, turn down the heat, push the potatoes to the sides of the pan, and add a few tablespoons of butter to the center. when it has melted, drop a teaspoon of minced garlic into the butter and sauté it for a few minutes until the garlic is fragrant and softened. Don’t brown the garlic, just cook it a bit. Add a few tablespoons of chopped parsley, toss the whole mess with some salt and a bit of pepper, and serve. If everything works perfectly the potatoes will be incredibly crisp. If you have failed miserably and are a sorry excuse for a cook, the dish will still taste great, but the potatoes won’t be tremendously crispy.
That’s my kind of dish; when you can screw it up and it still tastes great. The best part of this, aside from the incredibly crispy potatoes, is the lovely flavor of the duck fat. I have never used commercially rendered fat because I consider duck to be one of the main food groups; I have home-rendered duck fat in my refrigerator, ready to go at a moment’s notice. I don’t know whether I am rendering it correctly, but damn, it sure tastes good. Any comments from someone who has a more intimate knowledge of this process, and can tell me whether properly rendered duck fat has a delicate aroma and flavor from the duck, would be much appreciated.