If you’ve been alive in the last week, you’ve no doubt heard of Susan Boyle. She comes from Scotland–Blackburn, West Lothian to be exact–and has taken the world (and YouTube) by storm with her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent in which the audience, dubious of her looks, her dress and her speaking style, got put in their place the second she started singing–by the end, they were electrified. Let’s go to the tape:
The YouTube video of this (which is unembeddable) has been viewed 34 million times: Susan Boyle is an overnight sensation and it’s time somebody crafted a dish in her honor. Which is why I’m proud to present: Susan Boyled Potatoes.
What are they? Well, by the above photograph you’d think they were plain, ordinary, dismissible, unlovable boiled potatoes–much like the audience, on first seeing Susan, dismissed her as frumpy and plain.
But once you cut in? Prepare to be stunned:
That, Simon Cowell, is no ordinary potato: that potato is filled with a luxurious mixture of pancetta, garlic, wine and Gruyere cheese. It is, in other words, a Susan Boyled potato: seemingly plain on the outside but on the inside an embarrassment of riches.
So how do you make them?
Let me show you. You start with a few potatoes, I used Yukon golds.
You want to sort them so you choose equally sized, smallish potatoes: the ones on the left made the cut, the ones on the right were booted. “That was self-indulgent rubbish,” said Simon Cowell of the big potatoes. The potatoes hung their heads in shame.
As for the smallish ones (about the size of baseballs), you drop them into a big pot of boiling, salted water:
And you let them go for 20 to 30 minutes; just until you can pierce them easily with a knife.
While those are boiling, you start on the “stuffing” (which is more like a fondue-y sauce.) I based the recipe, in fact, on my friend Heidi’s recipe for Classic Cheese Fondue only I added bacon, red pepper flakes and parsley.
Here’s what you’ll need to work with: an inexpensive bottle of white wine (mine cost $5), garlic, parsley, pancetta (I use D’artagnan’s, but you can also just use good bacon) and, of course, Gruyere cheese. Heidi’s recipe calls for 1 lb, I used half a pound and halved the recipe.
Now Susan Boyle didn’t become Susan Boyle overnight: she had to work. And you too will have to work to make Susan Boyled Potatoes. To whit: you must chop the parsley (a good handful), you must mince one clove of garlic, you must cut one thick slice of pancetta into little lardons, you must pour out 1 cup of white wine, and you must grate that 1/2 lb of Gruyere cheese into a bowl and toss it with 2 – 3 Tbs of flour. Got that?
Now that you’re prepped, you’re ready to cook.
Take that pancetta and put it in a cold pot with just a splash of olive oil. Turn up the heat to medium and let it slowly render, so the fat comes out and the pancetta becomes crisp–3 to 4 minutes:
Once that bacon is rendered, add the minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it.) Be careful here: you don’t want the garlic to burn, so don’t have the heat too high and keep the wine handy to get to the next step quickly, just in case:
Once you smell the garlic, and before it browns, it’s time to add the wine. Do it!
Bring the wine to a simmer and then add your flour and cheese. Do it handful after handful, stirring all the while. It should look like this:
I found myself adding a little extra flour to thicken it up: this is the time to establish your filling’s texture. If you want it runny, let it be runny; if you want it a bit thicker, add a drop more flour. Stir and cook on a gentle, gentle heat (like a fondue) and, finally, add the parsley:
Now give that a taste: does it taste delicious? It should; about as delicious as hearing Susan Boyle sing!
Now for the tricky part. By now, you should have drained your potatoes and let them cool a little bit. Just before serving, you want to put a potato on the board:
You want to slice the top layer of it off the way Anthony Hopkins slices off the top of Ray Liotta’s head in “Hannibal.” Then you want to scoop out the middle part of the potato without breaking the outer parts, making a perfect little hole which you then immediately fill with the cheese sauce. See?
Let’s look a bit closer:
Look how it’s positively oozing with goodness. Now you want to put the cap back on, neaten it up, wipe off any drippy parts and create the illusion–just like Susan Boyle did–of this being just a plain Jane potato:
If you were served that plate, wouldn’t you “boo” too? Trick your family the way Susan Boyle tricked the world; put this plate before them and then let them cut in and suddenly encounter the sublime:
Let’s give Susan Boyle the last word.
Thanks Susan! Best of luck to you on “Britain’s Got Talent.”