Most people who have grown up in New Orleans or spent their college and twenty-something years in the area know F&M’s for it’s cheese fries and animal print covered pool table. Normally, its not the kind of place you step foot in before midnight. For the past few months, however, a pop-up restaurant has kept the patio doors open in the earlier hours of the evening and food expands beyond cheese fries.
PPX, a pop-up with Chef Matthew Kopfler at its helm, serves food made from local ingredients – he picks up most things at the Hollygrove Market. The first time I went, I was trying to support the whole locavore movement. And I was drawn by a strange curiosity to see F&M’s at a normal time of the day. I’ve happily returned because the food is delicious and creative. And why would I say no to that?
PPX has an incredible assortment of board and card games set out, and, this past Wednesday, my friends and I sat playing UNO long after we finished eating. The chef, getting creative, brought out a plate of fried mashed potatoes with a garlic mayonnaise. Being from a state that firmly believes in the power of the deep fryer, I’m a big fan of unexpected fried fare. But I’d never even heard of this variety of fried potato. It was just as good as I would’ve imagined – perfectly crisp on the outside and creamy inside. The garlic mayonnaise made a great dip that added subtle flavor the potato.
As any great dish should, I got a little kick of inspiration from those balls of fried potato happiness. I’ve had a lone sweet potato sitting in my pantry for a few weeks, leftover from my sweet potato gnocchi, so it seemed like a good excuse to get creative. The result was achingly good fried mashed sweet potatoes with an orange-cinnamon aioli. I sat down to write this immediately after trying one. The desire to run into the kitchen and eat another is slightly overwhelming. I don’t recommend frying these guys unless there are other people around to eat them. But throwing a dinner party? This is a good appetizer.
Fried Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange-Cinnamon Aioli
Aioli is adapted from Food Network
Makes ten fried balls
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 tbs butter
1 tbs milk
1 tbs honey
pinch of nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 egg yolk
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs salt
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1 orange
1 cup canola oil
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add sweet potato cubes. Cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain water and put them in a ricer or food mill. If you have neither, just return them to the pot and mash there. Once potatoes are mashed, add butter, milk, honey, and nutmeg and combine.
Using a tablespoon, scoop out balls of the potato mixture and set on a baking sheet. Let refrigerate for at least 15 minutes so potato becomes firm.
While the potato cools, make the aioli. Add first five ingredients to a food processor and pulse to combine. Once smooth, begin to slowly pour in the oil as the food processor runs. The consistency should look like mayonnaise.
Set up a breading station by arranging a bowl of flour, a bowl with the beaten eggs, and a bowl with the breadcrumbs. Working with one potato ball at a time, roll it in the flour to cover, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. Return the breaded ball to the baking sheet.
Fry the breaded balls in canola oil until a dark brown, about 2 minutes. Serve hot with the aioli.
Picnic tip: Aioli generally keeps for about 4 days if it’s stored in an airtight container. Keep it cold in a cooler until ready to use at the picnic.