What Makes Lyonnaise Potatoes A Uniquely Decadent Dish?

The French may not have invented french fries (according to the BBC), but they can lay claim to an equally delectable fried potato dish: Lyonnaise potatoes.

As The Spruce Eats explains, the dish consists of potatoes sliced into rounds and fried with onion, sometimes flavored with garlic or parsley. While Lyonnaise potatoes are typically fried in butter, you can also fry them in oil, lard, or duck fat. Eat them alone or as a side for proteins like steak or chicken.

According to Taste the World Cookbook, Lyonnaise potatoes are named for the city of Lyon, located in the Rhone-Alpes region of France. While the city has a rich culinary history dating back to the Roman Empire, potatoes didn't arrive in Europe until the 16th century. The first written record of potatoes in Europe dates back to 1567, and the dish known as Lyonnaise potatoes first appeared around 1845. Now, they've become a symbol of the city and a part of the complex tapestry of French cuisine.

Butter makes all the difference

As Serious Eats explains, butter is essential — but it's not the only thing you need to consider; a variety of techniques and ingredients must come together perfectly for the symphony of flavor known as Lyonnaise potatoes. 

The first step towards a beautifully decadent dish is picking the right type of potato: Opt for Yukon Gold potatoes for a creamier texture and richer taste. While russet potatoes have crunchier crusts, they lack the flavor of Yukon Golds and fall apart easily. You'll want to cut your potatoes into ¼-inch slices and par-boil them before frying, but be careful: Thin slices of potato fall apart easily. To prevent this, add a small amount of vinegar to the water before boiling the potatoes. The acids in the vinegar react to strengthen the cells of the potato, helping the potato slices hold their shape and creating a starchy outer layer that crisps up when fried, says Serious Eats.

Most importantly, though: Don't skimp on the butter. It helps the potatoes cook evenly and gives them their exquisite taste. If you really want to take your potatoes to the next level, clarify your butter before frying them up. Food Network explains that the process of clarifying butter separates the water and milk solids, leaving nothing but rich, flavorful fat. Since clarified butter has a higher smoke point than unclarified butter, you can sear your potatoes perfectly without sacrificing flavor.

Don't have time to clarify butter? Don't worry, you can still cook Lyonnaise potatoes in regular butter, but it might be harder to get the perfect crust.