For those who go to brunch exclusively for hash browns, allow me to introduce you to the darphin potatoes. Although they may sound like the hash brown’s way-too-cool French cousin, darphin potatoes are in fact as simple as potatoes and oil. Darphin potatoes, also known as pommes Darphin are essentially large potato cakes that occupy the space between a hash brown and a latke. Golden and crunchy on the outside, Darphin potatoes are soft and warm on the inside. What could be wrong? Perhaps you’ve heard of pommes Dauphine? This isn’t that. Dauphine potatoes are puffy clouds made of fried mashed potatoes and light choux (cream puff exterior) pastry. They’re not potatoes dauphinoise either, which is a baked casserole of cream, cheese and potatoes—also known as scalloped potatoes. While dauphine and dauphinoise potatoes are good, neither are as good as darphin potatoes.
The chef at my culinary program would want me to tell you that technically darphin potatoes should start with potatoes julienned on a mandoline. If you have a mandoline, guard your fingers and julienne your little heart out. However, it’s perfectly okay to make darphin potatoes with a plain ol’ box grater (forgive me, Chef Nic!). Go with your gut. Julienne or grate 3 large russet potatoes onto a dishtowel. If you’d like, grate a small white onion onto the towel as well and toss the mixture together. Wrap the potatoes in the dishtowel and squeeze the water from the potatoes over the sink. Unwrap the towel and toss the potatoes with lots of kosher salt and black pepper.
Meanwhile, heat a 6-inch stainless steel pan over high heat until it’s screaming hot. To make the sure pan is good and hot, squirt a small splash of olive or grapeseed oil into the pan. If the oil just pools in the bottom of the pan, wipe it out and continue heating the pan. If the oil dances around, you’re ready to go. Add a hefty pour of oil into the pan—it should be covered with about an eighth of an inch of oil. Lower the heat to medium.
Drop ⅓ of the potatoes into the pan and and press the potatoes into a flat disk with a rubber spatula. Shaking the pan slightly to ensure that the mixture doesn’t stick, cook the potatoes until deeply golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. If the mixture sticks to pan, squirt a bit more oil around the edges of the pan and shake it around. If it still seem stuck, lift the potato cake with a fish spatula and tilt the pan while squirting more oil in, letting the oil stream to the center.
When the underside of the potatoes are sufficiently brown, prepare the flip it. Summon your courage and in one swift movement with a flick of your wrist, flip the pancake. If it doesn’t work, just make like Julia Child and push it back together in the pan. It’s all going to the same place. Continue to cook until the second side is brown. Turn the darphin potatoes out onto a paper towel-lined plate, wipe the excess oil from the pan and make two more cakes with the remaining potatoes.
Darphin potatoes can be topped with a fried egg or two, or even sliced in half and layered into a breakfast sandwich. I, however, think there’s no better way to eat potatoes darphin for breakfast than with a slick of French mustard and a handful of watercress.