I had a quick look at Webster 1913's entry for chat to see if the little devil had anything to say about the potatoes. He did indeed; that they are fed to swine. Try to disregard this lapse and remember that chat potatoes are simply tiny, yummy spuds. They are also often sold as cocktail potatoes and new potatoes.
These delightful little snacks are sensational served with some crème fraiche, or alongside red meat and fish dishes. They are a rustic and chunky variation on chips (or fries for my State Side friends) that are not only simple to make, but will impress the socks off your guests as well. You also get to expel any excess stress you may have because you get to SMASH them! The crushed potatoes get a nice crispy exterior where the skin is split apart.
As with all simple dishes with few ingredients, the quality of the raw materials is the key to success. Use good potatoes, fresh rosemary and quality sea or kosher salt. If you can't find chat or cocktail potatoes, just ask your greengrocer for good frying potatoes such as russet or desiree. If you do use larger potatoes, make sure to cut them into large chunks before you boil them.
500 gm (1 lb) Chat potatoes (or other frying potatoes)
1 stalk of rosemary, leaves picked
Light vegetable oil, for deep-frying
If you are using chats, leave them whole. If you have larger potatoes cut them into chucks around 4 cm square. Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are just cooked. Drain away the water and leave the potatoes to cool. Make sure that they get completely dry, as any excess water will splutter when you fry them. (They can be prepared to this stage up to 48 hours in advance - make sure to refrigerate them).
Heat a large amount (about 1 litre (4 cups)) of vegetable oil in a large heavy based pot, or a big sturdy wok. Bring it to a medium high heat of around 180° C (360° F). It is at the right temperature when a cube of bread immediately sizzles and turns slowly golden - if it turns dark brown quickly, the oil is too hot.
Warning - When working with large amounts of hot oil be extremely careful. Remove all non-essential persons from the kitchen and take your time. Oil burns are among the most painful things an individual can experience.
With the palm of your hand, smash the potatoes so they are slightly flattened and have a rustic appearance.
When the oil is at the right temperature, gently submerge half the potatoes with the aid of a large slotted kitchen spoon. Cook until they are golden and crunchy, remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Cook the remaining potatoes. In a large bowl, toss together the spuds, salt and rosemary. Serve immediately with a bowl of crème fraiche or sour cream.