Why It Works
- Par-baking (or microwaving) the potatoes makes them easier to scoop and produces a more tender texture in the final cups.
- Cutting the potatoes across their equators produces smaller, deeper cups that are perfect for scooping and filling.
- Coating each potato cup in a slurry made from the scooped flesh creates the ultimate crispy crust, while also helping to ensure the inner flesh remains tender and moist.
Small potato pancakes or blini, topped with crème fraîche or sour cream and a slice of smoked salmon, make popular hors d'oeuvres. Here, we create a similar snack, with a change of delivery method: Instead of pancakes, we use crisply fried potato-skin cups, which are just about the most beautiful mash-up of French fries, potato chips, and baked potatoes we could ever imagine.
- 5 Yukon Gold potatoes, ideally about 5 or 6 ounces (140 to 170g) each (though larger potatoes will also work)
- Vegetable or canola oil, for greasing the potatoes and deep-frying
- Kosher salt
- Crème fraîche (or sour cream)
- 4 ounces (115g) thinly sliced smoked salmon
- Dill sprigs, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Using a fork or paring knife, puncture potatoes in several spots. Rub each potato with a light coat of oil. Arrange on a rack set on a baking sheet, or directly on an oven rack, and bake until just tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Alternatively, microwave pricked and oiled potatoes until just tender, about 5 minutes.
Let potatoes stand until cool enough to handle, then cut in half across their equators. Using a small spoon, scoop out most of the potato flesh into a medium bowl, leaving a layer of potato flesh roughly 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick still attached to the skin. (It's okay if the layer of potato flesh attached to the skin isn't perfectly even; that unevenness can add some good textural contrast to each cup.) If you want the cups to stand up more easily, slice off the very bottom of each one to create a level base. Set potato cups aside.
Using a blender or immersion blender, process scooped potato flesh into a slurry, adding just enough water to form a purée the consistency of applesauce. (You need only enough potato slurry to lightly coat each scooped potato cup, so you may want to purée only a portion of the scooped flesh and reserve the rest for a small batch of mashed potatoes.)
Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or large wok, heat 2 1/2 inches oil over high heat until it reaches a temperature of 365°F (185°C). Working in batches, dip each scooped potato cup in the potato slurry to coat it inside and out; allow the excess slurry to drain off, then carefully lower each potato cup into the hot oil. Because the slurry is so wet, the frying will be very vigorous, so be careful not to fry more than a few at a time.
Cook, agitating occasionally with a wire mesh spider, until potatoes just begin to turn lightly golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to paper towel–lined baking sheet, inverting each one, concave side down, to allow it to fully drain. Repeat dipping and frying with remaining potato cups. Using a fine-mesh strainer, skim out any free-floating fried bits of slurry from the oil and discard.
When ready to serve, return oil in Dutch oven or wok to 365°F (185°C). Fry potato cups in batches a second time, agitating them with wire mesh spider, until deeply golden brown and crispy all over, inside and out, about 3 minutes. Transfer cups to fresh paper towels to drain and season them with salt on all sides, then turn them concave side down to fully drain.
Once they are cool enough to handle, arrange cups on a plate, concave side up. Fill each with a generous dollop of crème fraîche and top with smoked salmon and a sprig of dill. Serve.
Make-Ahead and Storage
After the first frying step, you can allow the potatoes to fully cool, then refrigerate them overnight or freeze them for up to 2 months before frying a second time from chilled or frozen.