15 Potato Cooking Tips We Learned From Emeril Lagasse

Emeril Lagasse is a culinary icon –- perhaps one of America's first celebrity chefs, along with Julia Child. And not only that, but he's still going strong. Emeril recently explained in an interview with Tasting Table's "Shared Tastes" that he doesn't plan on retiring anytime soon. That is good news for us, because we still have so much to learn from him.

Let's take the humble potato, for instance. His expertise with this tuber can be traced back to his long-standing culinary interest in New Orleans, where the ingredient is a staple of the Creole and Cajun traditions. Lagasse has a proven track record of integrating potatoes into these dishes, but he is also no slouch when it comes to preparing meals where the potato is the star of the show, whether it's in the Creole or Cajun style or not. Indeed, his other culinary influences include as disparate lands as Portugal and the American Southwest, so you can expect a wide reach from him, in and outside the world of potatoes. From classic mashed potatoes to rustic, crispy roasted ones, Lagasse's talents shine through in all of his recipes. So let's take a look at how we might jump on the Emeril bandwagon by way of his potato dishes.

Double up on the potato pulp in a baked potato

Emeril Lagasse is a man of largesse, at least when it comes to his cooking. This is no more evident than in his recipe for baked potatoes, which are not only baked twice but also double, meaning that each baked potato is filled with its own pulp plus that of another baked potato. Basically, when it comes to Emeril's overstuffed twice-baked potato, more is more.

The most important thing to remember about this monstrous mound is that for every four potatoes you want to fill, you'll have to bake one additional potato, which will then lend its added pulp to the main spuds. This is potato teamwork at its best. Once you've hollowed out each potato and mixed it with the rest of the recipe's ingredients, which mainly comprise a lot of butter and a lot of cheese, you must discard one potato skin and fill the rest evenly. There should be just enough pulp to spill over each skin in a decadent pile of fluff and flavor. And since we're going overboard here, add some extra bacon and chives, too. You know you want to.

Add roasted garlic to mashed potatoes

Garlic, in all its forms, is able to add a major punch of flavor to any dish it graces, simply by being present. Raw garlic is what makes pesto pesto, while a smashed garlic clove sauteed with some vegetables can turn bland greens into a dish that can hold its own. But there is something about roasting whole heads of garlic that just brings out the flavor like no other process can, in part because it turns the garlic very sweet, as Emeril explains in a recent YouTube video. This is the type of garlic Emeril Lagasse likes to use in his mashed potatoes.

To prepare this simple but flavorful side, you'll need to get your garlic ready beforehand by roasting the head in the oven at 450 F for about 35 minutes on its own, or with an herb of your choice, like rosemary or thyme. Then simply mash it with a fork, making sure to remove all the skin, and fold it into your prepared potatoes along with some butter and seasoning. Mash thoroughly. To ensure success in this recipe, use firm heads of garlic -– the quality of the ingredient is the key to a good flavor.

Layer it with truffle

One of the most popular dishes in Emeril Lagasse's potato arsenal is Potato Alexa, which is served at his restaurant Emeril's, in New Orleans. In this extraordinary dish, truffle flavors are layered throughout the creation, appearing in the form of oil, butter, and emulsion. You could even shave some fresh truffles on top for extra flavor and flare.

Even so, at its core, this is a potato dish, so be sure to first boil, split, and scoop out some good old fashioned potato flesh. This must then be combined with half-and-half and Parmesan cheese before the parade of truffle ingredients begins. Chief among these is the portobello-truffle emulsion, which you can make by dousing portobello mushrooms in good quality olive oil and seasoning before baking them for about 15 minutes at 400 F. This process will bring out the best of the portobello mushroom, which then must be blended together with an egg, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, vegetable oil, and truffle oil. This emulsion is primed to seep right through your blank-slate potatoes, whether you're preparing Potato Alexa or even mashed potatoes.

Dress it with homemade ranch

Ranch dressing can make even the saddest, sorriest, blandest of leafy salads taste better, so imagine what a homemade version can do for your fluffy and spritely potato salads. Thankfully, Emeril Lagasse already imagined it and then came up with the ideal recipe we can all follow for an easy, flavorful weeknight potato dish.

Start by preparing the salad itself. Let those boiled potatoes cool before dicing them and mixing them with crispy bacon, hard-boiled eggs, red onions, celery (saving the leaves), fresh parsley, and Emeril's own homemade ranch dressing, which you can easily make yourself by combining mashed garlic with mayonnaise, buttermilk, celery leaves, green onions, parsley, lemon juice, Emeril's Creole seasoning, salt, and pepper. The bonus with this recipe is that you can use the entire celery stick for once, with the body of the vegetable going in the salad while its leaves help flavor the dressing.

Use only three ingredients in a baked potato

Part of the beauty of a baked potato is that it can be flavorful and comforting without being complicated. Emeril Lagasse's recipe for elevating a basic baked potato embodies this spirit to a T. Indeed, all you have to do at the end of the day is use three ingredients. If you have these, you have everything you need. If you want to go beyond that, you certainly can, but you don't have to.

And these three ingredients, themselves, are also as simple as can be: they are olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Just remember that since you won't necessarily have any cheese or bacon to hide your mistakes, you have to get this recipe right from the get-go. That means using good potatoes, like Idahos, good quality extra virgin olive oil, a perfectly sized type of salt, like Maldon's flaky sea salt, and strictly freshly ground black pepper -– none of that pre-ground stuff that loses its flavor as soon as it hits the shelves. Once you've got that notion in your noggin, all you have to do is bake your potatoes on a baking sheet at 425 F for an hour and enjoy.

Spice up fries with Baby Bam

French fries are an all-around crowd-pleaser on pretty much any occasion. All you have to do is present a hungry group of people with some nice, salty, crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle fries, and everything will be forgiven. But Emeril Lagasse has an idea for gilding that lily in a way that even the kids will appreciate.

Next time you prepare a plate of homemade fries for your friends (or your kids' friends), consider sprinkling them with some Baby Bam, Emeril's own blend of spices that is easy on the spice and just right in terms of flavor. Simply combine paprika, salt, dried parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, ground black pepper, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, and celery salt, and toss your potato wedges with the mixture before putting them in the oven. For bonus flavor points, don't bother peeling the potatoes beforehand –- just make sure they've been thoroughly cleaned first.

Add feta to smashed potatoes

Cheddar cheese is an obvious choice when it comes to potatoes, as you may already know if you've ever followed a recipe for baked potatoes, for example. Even Parmesan is commonly found in a variety of potato recipes. But feta, not so much, which is why we're so glad Emeril Lagasse has shared his tip for using feta cheese in smashed potatoes.

To prepare this recipe, start by boiling your potatoes, skins on, before draining them and smashing them one by one, until those skins break apart and some of that white fluff comes peeking out. Then cover each smashed potato in oil infused with garlic, rosemary, and oregano, and grill them until caramelized. Finally, crumble some feta atop the hot potatoes before serving. But don't expect the feta to melt. Feta doesn't behave that way, and this is part of the charm of this recipe –- the cool, crumbled feta creates a lovely foil — both in terms of texture and flavor — to the warm and smooth potato flesh.

Cook wedges in the air fryer

There is really no reason to be making potato wedges in your oven when you have a perfectly good air fryer at your disposal. Emeril Lagasse has his own air fryer, of course, meaning a brand that has his name on it, but that doesn't mean he'd lead us astray in our potato wedge-making quests.

To prepare his potato wedge air fryer recipe, as seen on Facebook, gather your Russet potatoes, olive oil, and favorite seasonings and chop up your wedges to your heart's content. Remember not to make them too big, or they may take ages to cook, or too small, whereupon they might shrivel up and become all crisp and no fluff. Before throwing the potatoes in the air fryer, coat them in the olive oil and seasoning and set your temperature and timer. Just make sure not to crowd the space. Be mindful of allowing enough room for each potato to stretch out and cook without the others piling on top. This will ensure an even cooking process.

Dehydrate potatoes after boiling

Many potato-based recipes –- from mashed potatoes to homemade gnocchi -– are most successful when the potatoes involved aren't too wet. One way to avoid this problem is to boil the potatoes with the skin on and peel them afterward. But while this may seem like an easy enough solution, remember that those potatoes are going to be too hot to handle for a long time after they come out of that pot.

Emeril Lagasse has a better solution, which you may have noticed mentioned in many of his potato recipes. His Potato Truffle Charlotte, for example, calls for the chef to place the potatoes back on the heat after boiling and draining them, and cooking them there for about 2 minutes. This process helps remove some of the moisture that builds up within the potatoes as they boil. With less moisture involved, the potatoes will be better primed to accept the butter, cream, and truffle oil to come.

Mix up potato varieties

With more than 200 potato varieties available for purchase in the United States, it's a crying shame that most recipes only call for the usual Idaho, Russets, or Yukon Golds. It causes many of us to miss out on a whole other world of color, texture, and flavor afforded by the likes of purple Vitelotte potatoes or red Zoe potatoes.

Emeril Lagasse has a recipe you can use to showcase some of these less common varieties. Truthfully, you could use whichever types of potatoes you like for this one, as long as you mix them up. In the case of his three potato gratin, he calls for any type of white potato, any kind of red potato, and sweet potatoes, giving each bite of this casserole a layered burst of potato flavors. The key to making this dish is to alternate the layers of sliced potatoes with grated Parmesan cheese before pouring a creamy garlic mixture over the whole thing. This is a great way to use up all the remaining potatoes in your pantry, especially if you have different varieties that might not mash well together.

Make twice-air fried potatoes instead of twice baked potatoes

We all love a good twice-baked potato –- a simple, tasty, and easy recipe for the whole family. It's pretty much a given that you'll prepare such a dish at some point in the year if you own an oven. But if you're in the mood for something that's the same but different, consider preparing your twice-baked potato in an air fryer, as Emeril Lagasse does, effectively making it a twice-air fried potato.

Indeed, the preparation is very similar up until the cooking method begins. First, brush olive oil on your potato and place it in the air fryer for 1 hour at 400 F. Meanwhile, prepare your topping of choice –- such as crispy bacon and grated cheddar cheese. When the potato is ready, scoop out its fluffy interior and mix that with the bacon and cheese along with green onions, heavy cream, butter, and seasoning. Refill the now-empty potato skins with your mixture and top with some more cheddar before cooking the potatoes in the air fryer for another 20 minutes at 400 F. Although the timings are similar to the oven method, this cooking process will leave you with a dish that is crispier on the outside while remaining fluffy on the inside.

Include leeks in potato rosti

Potato rosti is a classic Swedish dish that lends itself well to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, pairing effortlessly well with a variety of proteins and vegetables. Indeed, it pairs so well with some vegetables that they can be cooked within the rosti itself, incorporated along with the shaved potatoes before they even go in the pan.

Emeril Lagasse has one such recipe, which calls for leeks in particular. These are a great option to pair with potato rosti, as their slight oniony flavor provides a bit of a bite to offset the otherwise mild taste of the potato. Their texture is also ideal for this recipe as they tend to be stringy, allowing them to easily blend in with the cooked and shaved potatoes. Once this blend has occurred, in a hot pan with some butter, press the mixture down and cook on both sides until crispy. This is a great way to incorporate a vegetable into a starchy dish without the kids being any the wiser.

Grill sweet potatoes before baking them

Sweet potatoes taste great when cooked in pretty much any way. Even a simple boiled sweet potato with some salt and butter can make for a hugely satisfying side. But to really appreciate a sweet potato to the max, the best thing to do is to allow it to slightly caramelize –- without the need for sugar or fancy tricks.

Emeril Lagasse, for one, accomplishes this by cooking his sweet potatoes on the grill. He starts by coating sweet potato slices in olive oil and seasoning before grilling them at 350 F, on each side, for about 3 minutes. This sets in motion that coveted caramelization process, but it doesn't thoroughly cook the potatoes. For that, you'll need to transfer the grilled potatoes to the oven and bake them until they're tender. After they've cooled, serve them with olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, red onion, and a mild crumbly cheese to further bring out the potatoes' unique sweetness.

Use a mandolin to make chips

Making chips at home may seem like a big job, especially compared to how easy it is to just grab a bag of Lay's potato chips at the grocery store. But if you have the right tools, particularly an air fryer and a mandolin, the job will be a breeze. For guidance, you might also need a good recipe, and Emeril Lagasse has just the ticket.

Start by taking that mandolin and putting it on an extremely low setting -– one that will allow your sliced potatoes to come out nice and thin. Soak these for 30 minutes before draining them, drying them, and placing them in your air fryer. From there, it only takes about 5 minutes for them to be ready. Season them with salt and pepper, and if you're in the mood, truffle oil and Parmesan cheese. This may take a little longer than grabbing a bag of chips off the shelf, but not if you factor in changing out of your pajamas and braving traffic.

Layer apples into a potato gratin

The success of the apple and potato combination is well documented. Applesauce is a common condiment to serve with potato latkes, while diced apples have graced the cavities of many Thanksgiving birds, only to be served right alongside those ever present mashed potatoes. So why not play around with some other potential apple and potato combinations? What's the worst that could happen?

In fact, this is a very low-risk, high-reward endeavor, and Emeril Lagasse's apple and potato gratin is yet another illustration of this concept. To make it, start by placing a layer of thinly sliced potatoes on the bottom of a baking dish, topped with a mixture of nutmeg, salt, and white pepper, a layer of thinly sliced apples, and finally some Gruyere cheese. Continue layering up until all the ingredients have been used. Top with a heavy cream and spice mixture and bake.