[Jo Jo Potatoes]
Perhaps you remember Braden and Laura from the post I wrote about their underground restaurant venture: Hidden Kitchen has been doing well since then, waiting list and all, and Maxence and I have had the finger-licking pleasure of going back to their apartment a few times, as friends, on their off nights.
Last time we did was burger night or, more accurately, slider night*, Laura having reached the point where, after a severe bout of experimentitis the sort of which bakers are prone to, she was finally happy with her homemade buns.
Once we'd arrived, greeted Tati, who's running for Cutest Dog in the Underground Restaurant Business, settled down for an apéritif drink, eaten a few canapés, and scraped the last drop of a chilled lettuce soup -- this is when you should start to get a better idea of what Braden and Laura call an "off night" --, the sliders appeared, keeping warm under their miniature brushed metal cloches.
And alongside the sliders came a platter of golden potato wedges that prompted Maxence and me to clap our hands (okay, only I clapped my hands) and exclaim: "Oh! Des deluxe potatoes!"
You see, in France, those who visit the Fast Food Chain with the Golden Arches are given a choice of two potato sides with their (quote unquote) burger: dishwater blond, slim fries (des frites), or skin-on, breaded and fried potato wedges called deluxe potatoes, pronounced with a French accent and served with a mayo-like dressing.
I remember when this popular alternative was first introduced, back in my teenage days, when a fast food meal still felt like a treat, before or after catching a movie on the Champs-Elysées. I used to like these crusty and tender-hearted potatoes very much but, having had the opportunity to try them again more recently, I was disappointed to find that they now taste to me like hot cardboard.
Why they decided to call them deluxe potatoes is a mystery, considering that the American term refers primarily to a casserole dish of frozen hashbrowns and canned soup. (I shall refrain from passing judgement on the concept, since I have no idea what it might taste like, but I hope to live many more years without finding out.)
Arcane marketing matters aside, a proper American name for these potato wedges, we learned that night, is Jo Jo Potatoes**, or at least it is the name under which they sometimes travel in Montana, Ohio, Alabama, and the Pacific Northwest. I was unable to find a clear origin, and nobody seems to know who this Jo Jo guy (or gal?) was, how he liked his burger, and how well he took the blow of the low-carb diet.
The original Jo Jo potatoes are deep-fried but, in Braden's recipe, which he wrote down for me after we'd inhaled the batch, they are simply oven-baked. This suits me much better -- large quantities of hot oil scare me, so I don't do frying -- but you can fry them if frying is something you do. Likewise, the spice mix can be altered ad libitum.
Jo Jo Potatoes like to have some kind of secret sauce to dip their toes into, such as one made of equal parts ketchup, mustard, and mayo. They may be served as an appetizer, when watching a rugby game that your country is winning against all odds, or as a side to a burger, a steak, or a good old roast chicken.
** Sometimes spelled Jojo or Jo-Jo potatoes.
Deluxe Potatoes, a.k.a. Jo Jo Potatoes
- 60g (1/4 cup) butter, melted
- 1kg (2 pounds) baking potatoes (in France, use charlottes), scrubbed but not peeled
- 80g (2/3 cup) flour
- 60g (2 ounces) parmesan or other aged hard cheese, freshly and finely grated
- 2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds, crushed in a mortar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt (or celery seeds ground with sea salt)
- 1 tablespoon paprika or smoked paprika
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground chile pepper, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
Serves 4 to 6; the recipe can be halved.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a rimmed cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with the melted butter, and slip it into the oven to preheat.
Combine the flour, cheese, and seasonings (from mustard seeds to black pepper) in a large freezer bag.
Cut the potatoes lengthwise in wedges, 4 or 6 wedges per potato depending on its girth. Try to make evenly sized wedges so they will all bake at the same speed. Do not rinse or pat the potatoes after cutting them; you want them to retain a film of starch on their cut sides.
Add the potatoes to the bag, close the bag tightly, and shake well to coat the potatoes on all sides. (There will be some flour mixture leftover; it will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.)
Place the potatoes, flesh side down, on the preheated cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flip, and bake for another 30 minutes, until cooked through and golden. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve.
Adapted from a Hidden Kitchen recipe.
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