At Old Town Club, spuds play a big role in the “new southern” cuisine.
No matter how you slice, dice, stuff or stack them, potatoes are the perfect ingredient for creating exciting sides and starters. Especially at Old Town Club (OTC), Winston-Salem, N.C., where Executive Chef Jonathan Elwell relies on them for both his “small bites” menu and for sides and banquets.
“Potatoes are a simple, versatile ingredient that can be dressed up or dressed down,” says Elwell, who has been at OTC for just over four years. “They also help lower food costs without sacrificing quality.”
As OTC has moved away from large, traditional appetizers over the past two years, its small-bites menu has gained more traction. That menu focuses on modern dishes, like mini-duck sliders with house-cut potato chips, and has been an excellent way for Elwell to feature potato-focused components.
“The most popular was our foie gras-scented French fry,” he says. To make this special treat, he first cleaned a piece of foie and rendered it down. He then mixed the rendering with tapioca maltodextrin, to turn the fat into a powder. Hot from the fryer, he seasoned and garnished the fries with the foie powder.
“We served them with a bison slider,” says Elwell, who runs a 40% food cost at OTC. “They literally melted in your mouth.”
Another popular small bite—both on the a la carte menu and for banquets—are OTC’s pimento cheese-stuffed duchess potatoes.
“We start with a hearty pimento cheese, cutting way back on the mayo, and we fold that into the mash. We then pipe and bake them,” says Elwell.
Other “spud bites” at OTC include a sous vide potato confit made of fingerlings cooked in duck fat, then sautéed and served with local wild mushrooms and shaved manchengo cheese; creamy potato croquets; and a warm sweet-potato salad served with candied Benton bacon.
“On our buffets, we like to do a tri-colored potato gratin made with sweet potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes and purple Peruvian potatoes,” says Elwell, whose a la carte/banquet breakdown is around 60/40. “It can either be sliced or stacked and plated, but both ways it adds a nice punch of color.”