The classics sometimes get a bad name, associated with stuffy old restaurants that are no longer stylish, or even in existence. But there are reasons that these recipes became classics. In this series we will share some of those stories, and our versions of the recipes so that you can rediscover these dishes at home. After all, everything old is new again.
The Story of the Hasselback Potato
When did the accordion-sliced potato first appear on the culinary scene? If you search the internet you will get the same story, repeated in the never-ending echo chamber of social media and blogs. But it’s wrong.
Because the Hasselbacken Restaurant and Hotel in Stockholm was the first to serve them, and that business dates back to the 1700s, the erroneous assumption is that the potato recipe does too. In fact, potatoes were considered poisonous and unfit for human consumption across Europe through most of the 1700s. Parmentier, a Frenchman waged a pro-potato PR campaign during the throes of the French Revolution, and his name is still attached to many potato dishes in France.
It was similar in Sweden. An Economic History of Sweden tells us that the opposition to potatoes finally began to break down in the 1770s to 1790s, but it wasn’t until the the early 19th century that potato growing was widely adopted in Sweden. So it seems very unlikely that a rustic tavern in Stockholm served potatoes in the 1760s.
In 1853 the Restaurang Hasselbacken opened in a grandiose new building and ushered in an era of elaborate celebrations for the upper classes of Stockholm, who frequented the restaurant.
Hasselbackspotatis, as they are called in Swedish, were first served there in the 1950s, and were an instant hit. The impressive presentation was certainly a part of the appeal. Was it Leif Elisson, a student chef at the restaurant who first made the potatoes in 1953, or the restaurant school principal who was later credited in 1955? Like so much food history, the answer is far from clear. However the hotel and restaurant are still in operation, and continue serving the Hasselback Potatoes.
Making Hasselback Potatoes
These potatoes are still capable of impressing, and make a welcome departure from mashed potatoes and other potato side dishes. The magic of the Hasselback potato is the crispy exterior and the creamy interior – it’s the best of both worlds.
Our recipe involves softened Black Truffle Butter melted into the potato and crisped Jambon de Bayonne as a garnish. It takes a little time to make all those careful slices in the potato, but it’s worth the effort. Get the simple recipe at dartagnan.com.
And if you like kitchen gadgets, get one of these potato cutting boards, so that you never cut all the way through a potato. Or use a wooden spoon to hold your potato still and get the same effect.