Puffy Puris Popcorn Popovers and Pommes Souffles
It’s all hot air. Hot steam, to be exact. But what delicious results!
These starchy treats from all over have one thing in common: They became puffy because of trapped moisture which exploded and the starch quickly solidified. And it’s universal, from street food for the poor in India to elegant French restaurants, from mum’s home cooking in England to theaters.
Everyone knows about popcorn, but consider Yorkshire pudding, known in the United States as popovers. This is simply a batter which holds together as it quickly rises, making a crispy outer shell filled with steam. Visit any British supermarket, and you’ll find bins of them in the frozen food section.
Two of myMEGusta’s favorite steamy/crusty treats are Indian puris, also known as pooris, and French pommes soufflés.
The former is truly a poor man’s food, a simple, whole grain bread which delivers an extra wallop of calories (and flavor!) by being fried. You’ll find this humble bread as an a la carte option in many of the world’s finest Indian restaurants, as well as a staple among the poorest of the poor, sometimes accompanied by a stew (meat or vegetable) and serving as a main meal.
A recent street puri sighting was in Udaipoor, Rajasthan, India, on the day of a Hindu festival during which it was especially important for believers to give to the poor. At one temple, a group was gathered making large pots of (VERY appealing looking and smelling) curry, while a man sat nearby cranking out hundreds of puris in anticipation of the meal to come.
On the other end of the spectrum, although very similar in appearance, is the soufflé potato. Having nothing to do with the traditional eggy soufflé, these are simply twice fried disks of potato which puff up to elegant crispness. Rarely found outside of restaurants, pommes soufflés are time consuming and really messy to make, but OH SO good. Curious readers can find several good how-to videos can be found on YouTube.
One of myMEGusta’s favorite restaurants in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is La Cabana Las Lilas in the Puerto Madero district, a classic parilla specializing in wood grilled meats of all sorts. What makes this dining experience really special is their signature pommes soufflés, perfectly executed every time. http://restaurantlaslilas.com.ar/EN/
Delicious article but it did not mention that hot air can be expensive. Go to a restaurant and order soufflé and the check will likely go up a bit. Although the ingredients are not expensive the labor is.
Making puffed up potatoes is also a matter of expensive experience and luck. During my time at The Waldorf – Astoria I had a fry cook on the morning shift and his duties including making these potatoes. He made them, day after day ready for when somebody called for them. They just had to be put into hot fat they would puff up. As simple as that. When he was on vacation we had a problem and some very experienced people wasted a lot of potatoes.
They must be precisely slice just at the right thickness, light washed in warm water and then fried in a shallow pan gently moving back and fort. That’s all. Try it at home!
By the way the fry cook was the Union Delegate for the kitchen and we were obviously in opposite camps his potatoes did not suffer in our trench warfare.