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Photo by: Joseph De Leo
This dish (French, sahr-lah-DAYZ, “from Sarlat-la-Caneda, France”) has become a cocktail party favorite at our house. It’s traditionally made with potatoes and duck or goose confit, but one afternoon, when we had a house full of both weekend guests and leftover not-smoked, wet-cured ham, we tossed this version together and discovered that the ham gives the dish a lovely, silky finish, more American in taste and more economical to boot.
1. Position the rack in the dead center of the oven and preheat it to 400°F.
2. Peel the potatoes, then use a very sharp, thin knife to cut them into ¼-inch-thick slices. It’s easier to slice them the short way, thereby producing rounds: but they’re more aesthetically pleasing sliced the long way for layering in the baking dish. However, it’s troublesome to get those long slices. Best alternative? Slice a little off of one end, stand the potato up on your cutting board, and make the thin slices straight down.
3. Heat the lard in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Test it with one potato slice to make sure the oil bubbles when the potato is added. But be careful: all that starch-laden water in the potato will pop and sputter in the hot oil. (You might consider using a splatter screen, available at cookware stores and their online outlets.) Add more slices in batches, and fry them until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes per batch. As the potato slices are finished, transfer them to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
4. Once all the potatoes have been fried and are in the pan, sprinkle them with the remaining ingredients and toss well.
5. Bake, tossing two or three times, until everything is crisp and aromatic, about 20 minutes.
We tried this dish with a variety of potatoes: yellow-fleshed yukon Golds, red-skinned (or so-called “new”) potatoes, even yellow fingerlings. To be honest, russets worked best, offering up the creamiest finish, mostly because of their unique balance of starch and moisture. Plus, smaller potatoes were maddening to slice into thin strips.
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