The essence of this recipe is the vanilla pepper oil. Chef Coby Lee Ming mentioned infusing oil with vanilla and pepper and using it in a vinaigrette. This sounds brilliant, but I wanted to take it somewhere else. She used pepper and vanilla bean, while I used szechuan peppercorns, pepper, and vanilla bean just to try something different. You warm the combination on low heat, allow to rest, and then strain the oil.
The result is a beautiful golden color with flecks of vanilla bean in the oil. Truly beautiful. I think using the szechuan peppercorns muted the heat of the pepper somewhat, which made it smoother than Chef Ming originally intended. Roasting the potato slices in that oil yielded a flavorful, crispy "potato chip" that had subtle vanilla overtones.
1/2 cup canola oil or other neutral oil
1 teaspoon szechuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, unpeeled, sliced evenly (4 mm slices)
1/2 onion, chopped roughly
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 teaspoon of salt, or more to taste
- Split and scrape vanilla bean, and chop the skin into chunks, retaining all of it.
- Place oil in a pan with vanilla bean, peppercorns, and grind black pepper into the pan. Stir to distribute. Heat on medium-low for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from heat and cover for 4 hours. Strain the oil into a container.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
5. If not using immediately, shake the container of oil vigorously, since the vanilla beans will settle on the bottom.
6. Slice potatoes in even thickness, ideally using a mandoline. Discard end pieces. Mix potatoes with onion pieces in a bowl with enough oil to coat everything completely. Sprinkle with thyme and salt.
7. Arrange potato slices on baking sheets evenly. Place onion pieces on top of the potatoes so they don't burn.
8. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate back-to-front. Bake for another 10 minutes. Flip potato slices over and bake for another 10 minutes.
9. Serve with sour cream if desired.