The Importance Of Fat For Fondant Potatoes

Synonymous with nothing other than decadence, fondant potatoes transform the cheap and humble tuber into a dish of luxury. Also known as pommes de terre fondante or melting potatoes (via The Guardian), the starchy side is traditionally made by peeling potatoes and shaping them into wide cylinders before slowly baking them in butter and stock. The result is a potato with a perfectly browned exterior and oh-so-tender interior that seems to melt the second it meets your mouth. To what do we owe these crisp, yet creamy spuds? The answer is an abundance of fat.

With only three main components — starch, liquid, and fat — choosing the proper ingredients for fondant potatoes is essential. Starting with potatoes, the Michelin Guide recommends using starchy varieties like the russet as they tend to have a fluffier interior thanks to their high starch levels and low moisture — they're also able to retain other flavors more effectively. As for the liquid, any sort of meat stock (whether that be chicken or beef) works well to impart a bit of umami. This addition of stock also helps create creaminess as the spuds braise, shares Serious Eats.

However, the most important decision to make is which type of fat to use. While you can use anything from duck fat to beef tallow, Taste France Magazine reports that the favorite fat of the French tends to be butter, and a lot of it.

More fat means more tenderness and flavor

Though seemingly simple, the risk in making pommes de terre fondante is that if not done properly, serving half-cooked spuds is a real possibility. In order to achieve the fully-cooked and melting quality of these potatoes, adding enough (read: a very generous amount) of fat is a must.

According to some of the best chefs, it's wise not to skimp on the lard in favor of other liquids like stock because fat is what leads to successful fondant potatoes. In fact, The Guardian reports that several culinary geniuses like the late Anthony Bourdain would typically use a significant amount of duck fat and just a little stock, whereas Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic uses strictly butter to create ultra tender tubers.

Fats are recognized for their tenderizing abilities because they maintain moisture and prevent water absorption (via University of Illinois), so it's no wonder that this component is so important in crafting tender potatoes without having them become water-logged. Plus, fat also adds flavor, which can be amplified if you sear and braise the spuds with high-quality butter.