Mokonuts, a tiny neighborhood café in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, is best known for the chewy, creative cookies baked by Moko Hirayama, who draws on flavors like sesame and miso.
But the savory small plates created by her husband, Omar Koreitem—who blends Middle Eastern, French and American influences—deserve as much attention. In particular, his smashed and fried potatoes with chili vinaigrette.
Equally crunchy and creamy, the potatoes are seasoned with a vibrant lemon-jalapeño dressing that seeps into the cracks and crannies of the potatoes. Though the dressing is wonderfully bold and essential, it turns out the key to his recipe is the least likely of ingredients: the water.
Equally crunchy and creamy, the potatoes are seasoned with a vibrant lemon-jalapeño dressing that seeps into the cracks and crannies of the potatoes.
Koreitem boils the potatoes in heavily salted water. The salt not only thoroughly seasons them, it also raises the boiling point of the water. Cooking at a higher temperature produces potatoes with creamier interiors because the starches gelatinize more. He then presses the potatoes with a spatula, breaking the skins and creating edges that crisp when he later pan-fries them in browned butter.
We loved this approach but suspected we could take it even further. At Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, chef Nancy Silverton flavors the cooking water for her version of the dish with rosemary and whole garlic cloves. We loved the way those flavors complemented the bright Mokonuts dressing.
For our adaptation, we opted for the ease of roasting the boiled and smashed potatoes. A high-heat oven crisped the edges nicely and allowed us to cook all the potatoes at once, rather than in batches in a skillet. And to keep the flavors light, we skipped the butter in favor of olive oil, which we brushed over the tops. We also mashed the garlic used to season the potato cooking water into the dressing, giving it both flavor and body.
Thanks to well-seasoned water, the potatoes came out flavorful, crunchy and creamy. And well worth equal billing to a freshly baked cookie.