Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sauce for the goose - or the hoki

We here in England (and that might be a regal "we" - which means "me". No, it means "I".) Anyway, I always think of boiled potatoes as a rather boring part of a meal. Granted, yes, they are necessary to bulk out the more interesting food... No, we could have rice or pasta. But mashed potatoes always seem to have more flavour. probably because they have butter, milk and a little pepper mixed in. Well, they do in our house. If I'm making them they are just as likely to have some chopped garlic as well. Actually, we don't have plain boiled spuds very often. We might have potato wedges, or something I call hatchback (I think the proper name is something like hasselbad) or even potatoes in their jackets. With roast meat it is always roast potatoes.

I once asked an American friend why he waxed so lyrical about mashed potatoes served with his roast turkey at Thanksgiving. It just seemed wrong to me. Roast turkey and mashed potatoes? No, the flavours don't blend as well as they would were the potatoes to be roasted as well. His reply was that the mashed potatoes soak up the gravy better. Granted, there's no arguing with that. But I still prefer the idea of roast potatoes - partly, perhaps, because I never take gravy with a roast dinner. In fact, I rarely take gravy at all, unless it be with plain boiled potatoes!

I have never been offered gravy in France, where I eat in restaurants every night while we are there. The French are likely to serve any meal with sauce of some description. Indeed, it used to be the belief of every right-thinking Englishman that the French had to smother their meat in sauce because the meat was so bad. Actually, their beef is generally pretty awful but I have found one restaurant where it is good. But sauces are used a lot more in France than here in England. A favourite meal in one particular restaurant is turkey escalope. This used to be served with a delicious mushroom sauce (escalope de dinde Normande) but earlier this year the dish was described differently on the menu (escalope de dinde Vallée d'Auge). The sauce was even better and I asked what it was based on. Cider, I was told.

Florence, the cooking half of the couple who run the village restaurant, produces wonderful sauces. I often have the fish when we eat here. It's described on the menu as what was bought in the market, ie pot luck, but as it's nearly always hoki, a New Zealand fish, I doubt if it has ever seen the local market! But never mind, I like hoki which has a firm, flaky flesh not unlike cod. Florence used to serve it in a buttery sauce (one of our guests described this sauce as "to die for"), now it's a sauce Provençal, but in between she made a sorrel sauce.

Now the Old Bat was very taken with that sauce in particular and decided she would like to make it herself. We searched French supermarkets, English supermarkets and greengrocers for sorrel. There was none to be bought. We searched garden centres for plants, but there were none. However, while looking for something else last spring, I came across sorrel plants in a French garden centre. We bought a pot. That plant is still on the patio in the pot it came in and we have still not had a sorrel sauce. Maybe one day.


The Broad said...

Usually it's roast potatoes in our house with turkey or roast chicken. But on Thanksgiving I make mashed just for the tradition of it. I love roast potatoes with gravy -- thinking about it maybe I will roast the potatoes this year and start a new family tradition! I do like baby new potatoes -- when they are finished I just pour off the water from the pan, add a knob of butter and salt and pepper, put the lid on the pan and shake: delicious!

Uncle Skip, said...

It seems the only time we have plain boiled potatoes here is with the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner, when everything is boiled in the same pot.
GS tells how much I like potatoes much better than I. I can tell you I like gravy even less than I like potatoes.

Stephen Hayes said...

I sometimes make a Portuguese dish that requires boiled potatoes. The potatoes need to be taken from the pot, diced up and added to other ingredients. This is hard to do because I've become addicted to the taste of boiled potatoes with sea salt sprinkled on them, nothing more. The best potatoes ever! Although I don't mind a sprinkling of parsley.