Je vais faire des pommes de terre en chemise.

Je vais faire des pommes de terre en chemise.

zhuh vay fair day pum duh tay rah shMEEZ. Click below to hear this.*

I’m going to make boiled potatoes with the skins on.

I’m planning dinner, so of course I have to think about the menu! Everyone loves potatoes, but how to fix them?

Apparently, I am going to have to stitch up tiny clothes for them. Françoise was serving pommes de terre en chemise the other evening (in shirts). Here’s a recipe in one of my French cookbooks for pommes de terre en robe des champs (in field dresses). And American cookbooks will tell you how to cook potatoes in their jackets.

Well, my sister, Jean, is the one who knows how to sew, so I’ll leave that to her. Let’s talk about food instead.

As it turns out, all the tiny clothing is really a fanciful name for the skin: potatoes cooked first and peeled later. If you want to cook them the French way, scrub them first, but don’t break the skins. Salt the boiling water generously and then plunge the potatoes in. You will have to cook them by the clock; if you poke them to test for doneness, they will burst. You can fish one out on a spoon and press it very gently with your fingers; if it gives a little, it is probably done. Serve them hot with their skins, and offer butter, crème fraîche, or sour cream on the side. Those are des pommes de terre en robe des champs or en chemise.

The odd thing to me is that in the three French cookbooks that I own, only one even mentions the possibility of putting a potato in the oven to cook it. Françoise says that her Belgian childhood featured boiled potatoes rather than any other kind. (Preferably en raclette, but that’s another story.) My American childhood featured baked potatoes, pommes de terre au four (in the oven) with crunchy, chewy skins buttered on the inside and eaten separately. Either way, delecious!

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


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