Jeremiah: When I worked at the French Culinary Institute running the food for all the events (which basically meant cooking for on-site events, private parties, guest dinners, etc.), it was really the first time I was exposed to the idea of doing “guest chef dinners.” That’s where I met a lot of chefs that we still work with from time to time. Anyway, there was a pretty decent number of students attending class at any given time. One of the tests for the students was to make a perfect pommes Darphin, which is, like, a potato cake or a large latke. So when you do the math, 25 students per class, four Darphins per student…that equals roughly a million Darphins. The students didn’t want to throw them away, so they’d be left out for people to eat. Some were great, some were fucked up. It was a lot of potato.
Darphin is pretty classic — basically potatoes fried in clarified butter — and it’s usually served by itself, but I thought ours needed a friend. An uni friend. We try to only use Maine uni (occasionally we’ll use Hokkaido from Japan in the summer, when the Maine urchin are spawning). It’s a real highbrow/lowbrow kind of thing, and we’ve never run this dish any other way.
For the Darphin, we use a good frying potato, which is less starchy than, say, a baking potato, but not creamy like a Yukon Gold. We don’t use a julienne attachment on the food processor for the potato, but rather a mandoline to slice very thinly and then hand-cut into strips — it helps with the leaching of the water content to do it this way. The idea is that, once everything is cooked, you can still taste pieces of potato on the inside, so don’t overcook it, or you’ll lose that potato texture. Crazy as it sounds, it can also get too crispy, making it difficult to eat.
For the Darphin:
Slice each potato lengthwise into slices about ⅛ inch (3 mm) thick, then again lengthwise into strips ⅛ inch (3 mm) wide. (You should have a pile of matchstick-like pieces — they don’t need to be perfect; irregularity is okay here.) Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. Don’t worry about squeezing the liquid from them unless you are doing this in advance and have a lot of liquid that’s leached out.
Heat half of the clarified butter in an 8-inch (20 cm) nonstick frying pan (preferably one with high sides) over medium heat. Add the potatoes and use a spatula to tuck the edges in, creating sides all around in a hockey puck shape about 1¼ inches (3 cm) tall. Keep cooking, rotating the pan occasionally to prevent hot spots, and continue to tuck in the edges, preventing stray pieces of potatoes from escaping and creating a clearly defined edge.
Cook until the bottom is evenly golden brown, 5–7 minutes (use the spatula to lift up a side to check the color — it should be about the color of McDonald’s hash browns). To flip, remove the pan from the heat and place a large plate or pot lid on top of the pan.
Using towels to protect your hands, flip the pan so it’s on the top and remove the pan. The
potatoes should be golden-brown side up on the plate.
Add the remaining clarified butter to the pan and return to medium heat. Gently slide the potatoes back into the frying pan, golden-brown side up, and continue to cook, doing that same spatula tucking thing as before to keep its hockey puck shape (contents may have shifted in transit, so be sure to tuck in any stray pieces of potato). Cook until that same deep McDonald’s golden brown, another 5 minutes or so.
For the assembly:
Once the Darphin is ready, cut it into 4 equal slices.
Combine the pickled jalapeños, pickled shallots, and yuzu kosho in a small bowl. Spoon a bit of this onto each Darphin slice and top with uni and flaky sea salt.
For the clarified butter:
Melt the butter in a large, wide pot over low heat until completely melted. Eventually, it will start to simmer and you’ll see a separation of milk solids (the white parts) and the fat (the yellow stuff).
As the milk solids rise to the top, skim them off with a large spoon. Simmer another 20 minutes or so, continuing to skim the white parts off the top while some of them sink to the bottom.
Ladle the yellow butter from the pot into a fine-mesh sieve lined with three layers of cheesecloth. Discard the solids and any bits left in the cheesecloth.
Place clarified butter in a resealable container and refrigerate.
For the pickled jalapeños, ramps, or shallots:
Combine the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Let cool to room temperature and pour over the jalapeños, ramps, or shallots. Cover and refrigerate.
Let sit at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.