If the unique appearance of duchess potatoes makes you wonder about their origins, then you’ve come to the right place. In today’s post, we take a closer look at the history of this classic side dish whose presentation is just as appealing as its taste.
What Is the Origin of Duchess Potatoes?
Duchess potatoes (or pommes de terre duchesse, in French) are a side dish consisting of a creamy mix of mashed potatoes, egg yolk, and butter piped into decorative swirls and baked until golden.
The name “duchess potatoes” conjures up the sophistication of European royalty. However, the history of this dish may not be as refined as its name would suggest.
While the creator of duchess potatoes remains unknown, we know that the recipe appeared for the first time in print sometime around the mid 1700s and the early 1800s.
And although duchess potatoes do have an aristocratic look, it seems that this is nothing but an early and successful case of culinary PR.
Back in the 1700s, potatoes weren’t exactly popular in France. For example, at some point the king of France forbade the cultivation of potatoes because they were believed to cause leprosy.
Potato Advocates Enter the Scene
Things changed gradually thanks to advocates such as Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a scientist who understood the potential of potatoes to prevent famines.
Although the evidence in favor of potatoes piled up, their reputation among average people remained less than stellar, so chefs had to find ways to present them in a more sophisticated light.
One of those strategies was to give potato dishes fancy names with connotations of royalty. That’s how duchess potatoes were born.
And since in this case the dish really looks the part, it wound up being served on some of the world’s most exclusive tables, including those of many American presidents: A textbook case of “fake it till you make it”!
In love with French cuisine? Make sure to check out our previous blogs, “What Does Sauté Mean? (And Other French Culinary Terms)” and “Is French Food Mediterranean?”
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