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La Ratte Potatoes
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La Ratte potatoes are small to medium in size and are oblong, ovate, and have a slight curve with an irregular bumpy shape. The smooth, golden skin has a few shallow eyes and is speckled faintly with tan and dark brown spotting. The flesh is firm, waxy, dense, and golden yellow. When cooked, La Ratte potatoes are soft and tender and offer buttery flavors with pronounced nutty undertones of hazelnut.
La Ratte potatoes are typically available year-round, with peak season in the spring and summer.
La Ratte potatoes, botanically classified as Solanum tuberosum ‘La Ratte,’ are a fingerling variety sought after for its excellence in both flavor and texture. Also known as Ratte, Asparges, and La Reine, this French heirloom variety is hand harvested and has come to be known among chefs as a boutique potato that fetches a high price in the marketplace.
La Ratte potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, starch, and fiber.
La Ratte potatoes are best suited for cooked applications such as roasting, sautéing, boiling, and braising. La Ratte potatoes hold their shape well when cooked which lends them to be a perfect salad potato. Boiled and pureed they make an exceptional base for soups and sauces, and they can also be sliced and roasted and served with lemon peel, herbs, olives, or parsley. Complimentary flavors include thyme, tarragon, endive, shallots, garlic, browned butter, cream, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, truffle oil, capers, and bacon. Due to the La Ratte potato’s delicate nature, it does not store as long as other fingerings. Store in a cool, dry and dark location until ready to use. Do not refrigerate as this can negatively impact the flavor and texture of the La Ratte and cause it to deteriorate quickly.
The La Ratte potato never experienced widespread commercial success until it became a choice potato by high-end chefs of France. Chef Joel Robuchon is known to use them to make his signature puree, and Chef Christian Constant of the Hotel de Crillon serves them mashed roughly. Their popularity is not limited to France, as Chef Charlie Trotter of Chicago’s Charlie Trotter, Chef Terrence Brennan of Picholine, and Chef and owner Fernando Maschi of Il Mulino in New York are all said to be fans of the La Ratte as well.
According to the European Cultivated Potato Database, the La Ratte potato is considered to be native to both Denmark and France and was first cultivated in the 19th century. By 1934, however, the La Ratte nearly disappeared from the potato market as a result of degeneration of the seed. In 1965 the La Ratte potato was reintroduced, and since its return to the market, the La Ratte has achieved a niche following. One of the first growers to popularize the La Ratte potato in the United States was potato and onion farmer James Huston in Oregon. He read of a French farmer named Jean-Pierre Clot who was selling his La Ratte potatoes to the high-end chefs of Paris. Mr. Huston ordered plants from Mr. Clot and had them sent to the United States Agriculture Department laboratory for breeding to create a commercially viable version of the La Ratte. Today the La Ratte potato can be found at specialty markets in North America and Europe.