Ratte potato, also known as La Ratte, La Reine Ratte du Touquet, or Asparges, is a type of potato. The variety is small, with a nutty flavour and a smooth, buttery texture that maintains even when cooked. Ratte potatoes first appeared in the late 19th century and fast became a favourite ingredient of French chefs. Their famous nutty flavour is said to have come from the type of soil in which they are grown, especially in France.
Ratte potatoes are hand harvested and have a low yield, making them an expensive and boutique variety of potato that is hard to find and prized in the culinary world. The potato has an oval, slightly curved shape that is irregular and bumpy. Its skin is smooth and golden, with shallow eyes and light brown speckles across the surface. The flesh of ratte potatoes is golden-yellow in colour and firm, waxy, and dense. When cooked, ratte potatoes are soft and buttery with nutty undertones.
History of the ratte potato
The European Cultivated Potato Database states that ratte potatoes are native to both Denmark and France. They were first cultivated in the 19th century but quickly disappeared from the market as a result of degeneration of the seed. In 1965, ratte potatoes were reintroduced and have experienced widespread popularity amongst culinary aficionados since then.
James Huston, a potato and onion farmer from Oregon is considered to be one of the first growers to have popularised ratte potatoes in the United States. He is said to have read about a French farmer, Jean-Pierre Clot, who sold his special ratte potatoes to high-end chefs in Paris. HUston ordered plants from Clot and started breeding his own commercially viable version of ratte potatoes in the USA. Thanks to Huston, ratte potatoes can now be found at specialty markets in the USA as well as Europe.
Ratte potatoes were popularised by French chef Joël Robuchon, who used them to make his famous, creamy, smooth pomme puree (widely considered to be the best mashed potato in the world). They are also highly loved by Chef Christian Constant of the Hotel de Crillon, who serves his own mashed potato with ratte potatoes that have been roughly pureed.
How to use ratte potatoes in cooking
Ratte potatoes are suitable for a wide range of recipes and cooking applications. You can roast them, saute them, boil, or braise them. They will continue to hold their shape when cooked, making them an ideal potato for potato salads. Boiled and pureed ratte potatoes are incredible when mixed into soups and sauces. They are also excellent when sliced and roasted, seasoned with lemon zest, herbs, olives, and parsley. Ratte potatoes pair well with herbs like thyme and terragon, endive and shallots, garlic, brown butter and cream, Dijon mustard, red wine and champagne vinegar, truffle oil, capers, and bacon.
Ratte potatoes are delicate in nature and for that reason they cannot be stored for as long as other potatoes. Keep them in a cool, dry, and dark location until you’re ready to cook with them. Don’t refrigerate ratte potatoes as this can drastically effect its flavour and texture.
What do ratte potatoes taste like?
The ratte potato is famous for its slightly nutty taste, which the New York Times says is reminiscent of hazelnuts and chestnuts. They are widely regarded for their excellent flavour as well as their smooth, buttery texture. It is this smooth texture that makes them the perfect potato to use in pomme puree.
What can you substitute for ratte potatoes?
If you don’t have ratte potatoes on hand, you can substitute them for other similar potatoes. That said, nothing will come quite close to the nuttiness and smooth, milky texture of the ratte potato. Try substituting ratte potato with Russian Banana Fingerlings or Yukon Gold potatoes. You can also consider Kipfler potatoes.
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