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Smashed, Mashed & Flashed A new set of irresistible snacks and sides is showcasing the potato’s vast versatility

The process of cooking, smashing then frying potato chunks lends an irresistible crunch to the exterior, perfect for snacking or sharing.
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There are few foods in the United States as beloved as the potato. In fact, the National Potato Council’s latest numbers show that the average American consumes 117 pounds of potatoes per year. Creative new potato-based dishes abound on restaurant menus, as chefs and operators capitalize on the vegetable’s widespread appeal, ease of preparation and relatively low cost.

Inspired variations that are smashed, mashed, roasted, shredded, griddled and flash-fried are enticing dining guests with unique sharing plates, snacks and side dishes possessing higher levels of craveability than even the most skillfully prepared hand-cut fry.

Smashed and Smushed
One of the most prevalent new treatments involves baking, boiling or frying the potato, which is then smashed flat and either flash-fried or griddled until crispy. They are served as a signature side at Big Jones in Chicago, where chef Paul Fehribach smashes boiled German butterball potatoes into thin rounds and pan-fries them to a crispy crunch. The menu at multi-unit Umami Burger features Smushed Potatoes, “B”-sized creamers that are fried, smashed, fried a second time and served in a pool of garlic aïoli.

Smashed and fried fingerling potatoes provide a distinctive foundation for chef Jimmy Bannos Jr.’s Crispy Chicken Thigh Kebabs at The Purple Pig in Chicago, where dual skewers of plancha-crisped thigh are seated on a mound of the crunchy potatoes surrounded by a swirl of housemade tzatziki sauce. At Back Forty in New York City, the Peel & Eat BBQ Gulf Shrimp are served atop smashed fried fingerlings bathed in a Cajun-spiced butter sauce.

Others employ the same technique but simply crack or tear the cooked potatoes into random chunks rather than smashing them flat. Such is the case at Short Order in Los Angeles, where baked potatoes are torn into chunks, fried to an extreme crunch and served with a creamy bacon dip. At Osteria Via Stato in Chicago, Calabrian Potatoes feature chunks of crisply fried boiling potatoes tossed with olive oil, sea salt and chopped fresh rosemary.

Fried smashed or cracked potatoes are clever variations that offer numerous opportunities for menu innovation:

  • Toss freshly fried potatoes with sea salt and cracked pepper, ranch seasoning, Old Bay, seasoned salt or chopped fresh herbs.
  • Serve potatoes with a signature dip or sauce based on ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard or Greek yogurt.
  • Incorporate into sharing plates and entrées as a bed for grilled, sautéed or roasted meats, poultry and seafood.

Note: For cracked and chunked potato dishes, it is essential to aggressively fry them, which produces an exterior with a crackly crunch.

Mashed and Flashed
Uniquely creative dishes based on mashed potatoes are emerging as well. At Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner in Chicago, mashed potatoes are formed into discs, tempura battered and fried, drizzled with Asian barbecue sauce and topped with crunchy carrot and cabbage slaw. The Potato Fritters at 25 Degrees in Los Angeles are breaded and fried balls of three-cheese mashed potatoes, served with a creamy horseradish sauce.

The Potato-Polenta Mash at Chicago’s Summer House is an inspired blend of mashed potatoes, white cheddar and creamy polenta. And in New York City, Aligot Potatoes, the traditional French purée incorporating butter, cheese and garlic, is a favorite side at both Minetta Tavern and Willow Road.

None but the Bravas
Flavorful twists on the classic Spanish tapa dish Patatas Bravas—fried potato chunks topped with a spicy ketchup sauce—have become sharing-plate stars on menus across the country.

The Patatas at New York’s Pearl & Ash are tossed in chorizo powder and topped with an intense porcini mushroom aïoli. At nearby ABC Cocina, both a spicy tangy tomato sauce and a rosemary aïoli are slathered on the potatoes. Chicago’s Tavernita layers its dish with crumbled chorizo, chile butter, brava sauce and a sunny-side-up egg. Perhaps the most unique treatment is served at Gjelina in Los Angeles, where Crispy Carola Potatoes are drizzled with lemon aïoli and topped with pickled red onion, grated fresh horseradish and dill sprigs.

A signature variation of Patatas Bravas can easily become a favorite of dining guests:

  • Toss potatoes in melted butter or olive oil flavored with ground chiles, garlic and parsley, curry powder or chopped herbs.
  • Top with a crumble of cooked or cured sausage such as chorizo, andouille or linguiça.
  • Add an umami kick with a sprinkle of a highly flavored cheese such as crumbled blue, shredded smoked Gouda, grated Parmesan or shaved aged goat cheese.

The spicy tangy tomato sauce and rosemary aïoli give the Patatas Bravas extra zip at ABC Cocina in New York.

Latkes and Tots
The latke is a classic kosher griddle cake made from shredded potato flavored with diced onion and bound with beaten egg and flour. Chefs are now revising and updating the dish with flavorful ingredient additions.

The Crispy Potato Latkes at Kutsher’s in New York City are offered with a variety of accompaniment choices, including apple compote and sour cream, braised brisket and horseradish aïoli, and smoked salmon with dilled crème fraîche. At Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese in Los Angeles, chef Eric Greenspan accompanies his sandwiches with Latke Bites that are scooped and flash-fried to order and served with apple crème fraîche.

Latke Bites are actually a sort of latke/tot hybrid, and the indulgently rich Bacon Cheddar Tots served at Public School 310 in Los Angeles are prepared in a similar fashion: The shredded potato, egg and flour mixture is folded with crumbled bacon and sharp cheddar, and the fried tots are served with a creamy Sriracha dip.

The Animal Tots at Chicago’s Park Tavern feature housemade tots served poutine-style, topped with pulled pork, cheddar curds, grain mustard, stout gravy and a sunny-side-up egg.

Shredded sweet potato also produces a delicious tot, served with a grain mustard aïoli at The Pullman Kitchen in New York and a housemade kimchi ketchup at L.A. Spice in Los Angeles.

Creatively flavored latkes and tots can distinguish your menu by providing a welcome break from typical fried potato offerings:

  • Offer a variety of toppings to complement freshly griddled latkes: braised and pulled meats, cold or hot smoked fish, fried or poached eggs or sharp cheese-based sauces.
  • Fold boldly flavored proteins and cheeses into the mixture: crumbled bacon, bits of prosciutto or shredded hard salami, sharp cheddar, Muenster, Havarti or Taleggio.
  • Use housemade tots as a unique base for smothered fry and poutine applications.

About The Author

Gerry Ludwig

Gerry Ludwig is corporate consulting chef at Gordon Food Service, where he creates trends-based culinary solutions for operators, conducts seminars and workshops and hosts trend-tracking tours.