I am a sucker for babies. They reduce me to a pile of cooing, quivering jelly. When I encounter a neonate, i have to fight the urge to stuff their pudgy cheeks, fists, and feet into my mouth. This may seem bizarre, but I'm willing to bet there are some of you that are nodding in recognition.
This same compulsion applies to baby vegetables (just ask Sid Wainer). These, I recognize, are OK to put in my mouth.
My first vegetable garden was largely dedicated to the cultivation of baby root vegetables. I planted miniature varieties of white turnips, red and yellow beets, cylindrical and round carrots, and red and white pearl onions in neat rows. It was a garden fit for a dollhouse.
I also planted Yukon Gold potatoes that were intended to be full size, but when I prematurely dug them up, I was delighted to find tiny, marble-size potatoes clinging to the roots. Within minutes, I was in my kitchen, rinsing off the still-wet earth, their skins so thin that the force of the water nearly peeled them away. After a few minutes in boiling, salted water, they went into a saute pan with fruity olive oil, smashed cloves of garlic and sprigs of thyme. Heavenly, they were; creamy inside, crisp and earthy outside. Later that day, I made a simple dinner of roasted baby potatoes with melted raclette cheese, good bread and wine. I will never forget those humble meals; they rekindled my love affair with the potato.
Nowadays, I seldom grow potatoes, mainly because I don't want to sacrifice the space in my garden required to grow and hill them. At this time of year, I am on the lookout for new crops of spuds that appear at the market and will rummage through bins and baskets, picking out the tiniest specimens.
The newborn fingerlings that I found, just hours old I was told, were prime for simple preparations. But, of course, I had to play.
Methocel SGA forms a firm gel when heated and reverts to it's original state (here, a soft puree) as it cools. For best results, allow it to hydrate overnight.
160 g hot potato puree
75 g milk, cream, or buttermilk
15 g butter
100 g water
5 g methocel SGA150
raclette cheese, cut into thin slices.
To make potato puree: Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Drop into boiling, salted water and cook until very tender. Drain and pass through a ricer, tamis or sieve 2-3 times or until a very smooth texture is achieved. This is best made just before proceeding with recipe, while still hot.
Combine hot potato puree with milk, butter, and salt, stirring vigorously until butter melts.
Add methocel to water and blend it in with an immersion blender. Combine gel with potato mixture, stirring until well blended. Cover and chill overnight in refrigerator.
The next day, preheat oven to 250F. Fill molds with potato mixture and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until firm. Remove from oven and unmold onto baking sheet lined with silpat.
Lay slices of cheese alongside potatoes and return to oven just until cheese softens and begins to spread.
Peel cheese off silpat and drape over potato. Lift potato and mold the cheese around the bottom, pressing into place.
If desired, the raclette potato can be painted with strongly-brewed, finely-ground coffee. Serve warm.