Friday, October 25, 2013

Jacques Pepin's Potato Ragout

It's getting colder in most places in the northern hemisphere (not Southern California, yet) so I figured I'd do a comfort style dish.

I saw Jacques Pepin demonstrate this recipe on PBS the other day and thought it looked perfect. I've never actually done any of his recipes before since they are all French and usually loaded with butter, which isn't a bad thing, but I've been doing my best to limit my butter intake lately. That said, there is bacon in this recipe but not a huge amount when you split it 3-4 ways.

This ragout turns out being almost like halfway between a soup and a hash and I really enjoyed it. I served it with some simple steamed green beans and a salad.

Potato Ragout
(adapted from here)

8 oz bacon or pancetta
3 onions, cut into eighths
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic (I used 3 cloves)
3 bay leaves
1 fresh thyme sprig or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups water or stock
2 1/2 pounds fingerling or small waxy potatoes (red or yukon gold)


Begin by weighing out your bacon.

Stack the slices best you can and give them a chop. You don't have to dice, just slice into "lardons".

Toss the bacon into a COLD pot, then turn the heat to medium. I like my dutch oven for this type of dish.

I also like to steal a trick from rendering lard to get cold bacon going. 

Add about 1/2 a cup of water to the pot. This helps get the bacon going very evenly as water transfers heat more efficiently and than air.

This is going to take maybe 30 minutes, so go ahead and start the potatoes.

I went a bit over 2.5 pounds, unpeeled.

Peel and cut the potatoes into pretty even pieces. I did most of them in quarters and had one small one I left whole and one big one I cut into eighths. Point here is you want them to cook evenly.

While you cut them put them into a pot of cold water to keep them fresh. You can also do this way ahead of time.

By now most of the water should be evaporated and the bacon will start to brown.

Adjust the heat so it doesn't burn. I usually drop it a notch to medium-low-ish and stir quite frequently.

We have just enough time to prep the onions.

Chop them into eighths. I'd stir that bacon after cutting each one.

When your bacon is super foamy and crisp you are ready for the onions.

Toss them into the pot.

Pepin warns about adding salt, but potatoes suck up salt like nothing else, so I salted the onions here to get them to release some liquid. Also add a bit of pepper.

Stir well to coat with the fat.

Up the heat back to medium.

Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes or until the onions start to get just a bit of color.

Grab your garlic.

Chop it coarsely.

This is what your onions should look like. Just soft and starting to get color on the edges:

Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of flour.

This, apparently, is called the "singer method" as Pepin called it "singeing the onions", which sounds like you're burning it but it's just sprinkling it with flour to thicken it. I'd never heard of it.

Anyway, just sprinkle it on.

Stir well and non-stop for 60 seconds. Get all that flour incorporated. Don't worry if it sticks to the bottom of the pan.

After 60 seconds, add the garlic, 3 bay leaves & 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme (or sprig of fresh).

Immediately add 2.5 cups of water or stock.

I used stock because I have gotten into the habit of making vegetable stock from my older vegetables in the fridge. It's super easy in a pressure cooker and easy to clean since there's no fat. I'll have to do a short post on my method one of these days. It's really easy and worth it. EDIT: I posted it right here.

Give it a stir and let it come to a boil. Shouldn't take long.

Add your potatoes and stir well.

Let this come to a boil again.

Cover the pot and drop the heat to medium-low.

You want to have the potatoes simmering lightly, so adjust your heat accordingly.

Let this go 45 minutes to an hour.

After 45 minutes I checked my potatoes with a knife. You want them to maintain their shape but still meet a little resistance with a knife.

Adjust seasoning and add a few healthy grinds of pepper.

I added more salt than I thought I should (about 1/2 teaspoon) and it was fine. Even a tad under-seasoned in my opinion. Just add 1/4 teaspoon at a time to taste.

Chop up some parsley for some color.

I also made a salad with some romaine and arugula that worked well with the dish.

Serve with simple steamed green beans and be generous with the sauce.


Overall this was a surprisingly good dish. I kind of thought it could end up either too heavy or too plain, but it turned out well. By not having a main protein it ate more like a soup or a hash and having some green beans on the side helped break up the texture too. If you're feeling it, you could probably hit it with some sherry vinegar at the end to give it some kick. Maybe toss the green beans in some. I'll have to experiment.

Anyway, the bacon/onion sauce was the star to me. Really creamy and a bit smoky from the bacon and it really coated everything well. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the kids ate it up.



  1. love, love, LOVE Jacques Pepin. Pretty thrilled to see a recipe of his here! It looks delicious!! I will definitely try this, but I don't have a stock pot. I have a crockpot and a stainless steel wok. Do you think this would work well using either of those tools?

  2. I think it'd would work out great in a crockpot - it would just take a bit more time. In another pan, just brown off the bacon and onions then add the flour and spices and right before the step where you add the 2.5 cups of stock, just throw it in the crockpot and then add the stock to that. Then, depending on how much time you have, cook it on low or high until the potatoes are done. I bet it would be awesome this way now that I think about it!

  3. Thanks for the tips Phil! Will let you know how mine turned out in the crockpot: and I think I might use leeks instead of onions...yum!


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