What first attracted me to the millionaire potato cake…


On a recent evening, when I was cooking for one, I came across this very simple recipe, whose heritage I was blissfully unaware. I have always advocated simplicity in cooking which does not in any way imply thoughtlessness or carelessness in the preparation, indeed the opposite is true. There is no reason why baked beans on toast should not be a very good dish and they most certainly will be if the beans are twice heated, with a knob of unsalted butter stirred into them, and are then spooned onto a thick hot slice of grilled bread which has absorbed its own share of good butter. The recipe that I found was for a golden potato cake, cooked both in the pan and in the oven, which would then be served with roughly chopped parsley and garlic. A potato cake such as this demands that bit more than beans on toast but is none the less simple and is indeed so good that it travels in very exalted, both monetarily and socially, company when served at the celebrated L’Ami Louis restaurant in Paris. The name of this restaurant has, for some time, been rattling around in the maelstrom that is the back of my mind. Part of that chaos was so deeply under the impression that I had at some time visited the restaurant that I found myself reminiscing over non existent moments that I had enjoyed there, so much so that when I saw the recipe entitled “Potato Cake L’Ami Louis” it was like saying a surprised hello on suddenly recognising a long forgotten friend in an unlikely situation and realising, too late, that you are about to double kiss the Queen Mother*….her face looked so familiar. Having apologised profusely and backed out of the room, whilst retaining a suitably servile and bowed posture, I felt I should research the restaurant with whom I believed I was an intimate. “This is the home of the $300 chicken ” was Google’s opening line by way of introduction to this celebrated restaurant which, it appears, is not only home to the priceless chicken but also to the movers and groovers among whom I do not number. Rich tourists make up the numbers: one of these number maker uppers mentions in a review that, on looking through the wine list,  he had had to ask the wine waiter if the prices were in Euros or Francs: I noticed that one could have a good bottle of La Tache for 2,380€…yes Euros, not Francs. Yet my humble potato cake is the “side”  that accompanies the $90 côtes de boeuf. That which is even more surprising is that the menu is, to my mind, an ideal list of the simplest, best and least fucked about dishes in the French catalogue: foie gras, jambon pata negra, confit de canard, escargots, st.jacques, asperges vertes, poulet roti, cotes de boeuf, cotes du mouton, rognons, cailles, pigeon, framboises, pruneaux à l’armagnac….incontournable..mais l’experience l’Ami Louis est unique, tordante et ruineuse!. Just love the sheer outrageous bollocks of it but the experience will remain for me as one that is as vicarious as it is affordable. However, I can and did enjoy the potato cake, and could, on reflection, enjoy any of the other dishes at home by just buying the ingredients. There are no ridiculous emulsions, cheffy decorations, or uncomfortable combinations of ingredients that are picked for their novel name, colour or rarity….just the finest, simplest ingredients. The only requirements for enjoying these dishes outside of the rich chicken’s home would  be the purchase of ingredients and the care and attention in their preparation…. and some good affordable wine which is not a rarity here . Here is the recipe from Patricia Wells’ wonderful “Bistro Cooking” that has not left my kitchen since I bought it two years ago.

*I know the Queen Mother has been dead for quite a while….I just wish I didn’t keep bumping into her.

Potato Cake Ami Louis

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2015, Bistro, Chicken, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Excellence, Flat parsley, Foie Gras, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, garlic, Google, Herbs and Spices, Meat, Patricia Wells, Photography, potato, Potato Cake Ami Louis, Poultry, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Vicarious pleasure, wine, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to What first attracted me to the millionaire potato cake…

  1. The simplest, finest ingredients are the foundation of what, to me, makes French cooking what it is, post, pre, or anti “nouveau cuisine.” This looks excellent!

    • It has to be that…the sad thing is that there are so few good provincial bistros where this sort of food is served at a proper price. Funnily enough, a food writer suggested an reasonably economical way of eating at L’Ami Louis which entailed two people sharing the massive starter of foie gras, sharing the whole roast chicken and finishing with fresh fruit..to drink, a Gigondas at 53€..apparently the total would be 210€ which isn’t bad at all for one of the most expensive restaurants in Paris where dinner for 4 is normally around 700 – 800€ 🙂

  2. I’ve always admired the simplicity of your cuisine. I adore the place setting. The goat is my favorite 🙂

  3. Great post as always. I believe in simplicity too and I love old recipes. Potato pancakes are some of my favorites.

  4. catterel says:

    Another treat for me when I’ve lost those next 5 kg 🙂

  5. This potato pancake sounds incredible, and so does your baked beans and grilled toast! I’d like to pick up my own copy of Bistro Cooking, must be really good if it hasn’t left your kitchen in two years. I imagine potatoes fried in goose fat in a giant black steel pan then baked in a cooper sauté pan would make a difference in the outcome! I love French cooking.

    • At a cost of some 20€ for a plate of potatoes, I very much hope it makes a difference. I cooked mine in goose fat, bought from the local supermarket, and cooked them in a black pan and then baked them in that same black pan and it worked out very cheap and very good…I think the experience of eating them at L’Ami Louis with Chirac,Serge Gainsbourg or Johnny Depp at the next table wouldn’t improve the flavour much but it would be exciting…as well as ruinous:)

  6. Hmm, Fede (from Argentina) used to make a potato cake when he was here- very similar to this but he boiled cubed potatoes first then cooked them. It was a recipe his mother made often. THIS one of yours looks MUCH better, the saute-ing (how does one spell that?) would add a much needed layer of taste. I believe I will make yours tomorrow! and as I have a young French man visiting I am sure it will be a hit. Man thanks! c

  7. Eha says:

    OK, hide I’ll hide my head under a pillow, ’cause Eha rarely eats potatoes . . .but did I have fun reading up about ‘l’Ami Louis’!! The blessed place is way older than I am . . . and still going!!! Uhuh! And it truly is a ‘funny feeling’ to know you wrote about a delicious potato dish in France, Celi replied from the ruddy Prairies where Hugo from Avignon may just get a yumptious lunch tomorrow/well actually today whilst we from Down Under watch . . . well, there must be some benefits to being on line . . . 🙂 !

  8. I think the Queen Mother lives down the road from us, I keep bumping into her in thesupermarket and our local bar 😉 Back in Spain now and am determined to live the very simple life for a few weeks….this fits the bill perfectly!

  9. Mate, I don’t know about the $300 chicken or you continually running into the Queen mother, but that potato cake looks to be the business. Appeal no doubt enhanced by another cracking pic 👍

  10. I am back today as I am making this with dinner! .. c

  11. Mad Dog says:

    Yum! I was thinking, “Good with goose fat”, as I read your story and there it was (poultry fat) in the recipe! I imagine the potato cake is even better than fried mashed potato 😉

  12. Dear Roger,

    this is a grovelling apology.

    I read all your blog posts, of course I do. Some I read with a “Hmmm, that looks interesting” attitude, some with a “I must cook that” attitude, and heretofore, some with an attitude of, “He’s got to be kidding. How could that be good? The poor sod’s taste buds have been cauterised and brain addled by all those years of sex, drugs and rock ’n roll (although to be fair to you, the sex would have been very expressive and imaginative, the rock ’n roll would have been exceptional, and only the finest drugs and alcohol that your client’s expense account would carry. But I digress.)”

    Which brings me to Friend Louis’ potato cake. I saw your photo and immediately thought that whatever the ingredients, I am going to cook this. Or more accurately, hand the recipe to Suzanne and promise martinis and other things if she would cook it (she being a much better cook than I). I kitchen-slaved, she directed operations.

    It is fantastic. We had it with some baked smoked salmon (that is not a typo) and we both loved it. After cooking, the drain pipes of West London had a lining of duck fat, as did my pipes the next day. There was some left over which went into the fridge and the next morning I had some for breakfast. Still great. Suzanne started nibbling on it as well and I had to be quick or lose the lot.

    So here’s the apology, or at least a promise. Never again will I doubt your choice of recipe. Never again will I suspect you of impairment. Henceforth, your words shall be taken as law.


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