There are so many exciting aspects of Christian David Reynoso’s new recipe for Rustic Leek and Potato Soup. (Permission to call it a chowder?) There’s the gremolata, where the herbs are fried before they’re crumbled (hello, texture!), there’s the fact that because it’s “rustic” you don’t have to deal with puréeing potatoes (food mills, blergh), and, last but not least, there are the fried capers.
I do love capers’ briny, chilly punch straight from the jar—I’ll chop them coarsely and stir them into vinaigrette or scatter them on top of a fancy composed salad or blitz them into green sauce—but I like them best when they’re cooked. Not only do they release their salty assertion into whatever they’re cooking in—be it oil or sauce or butter and wine (piccata!)—but they also get soft and plump, ready to melt in your mouth rather than pop like a balloon.
And when capers are not just gently sautéed but aggressively fried, they’re even better. On my list of “Foods Very Good Fried” (which, I’ll let you know, is constantly expanding), capers rank up there, along with green tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, tofu, pizza dough, and choux pastry (which, when fried, becomes a French cruller!). Frying causes capers to open, like flowers blooming in slow motion (and the Dominique Ansel marshmallows they’ve inspired). The insides retain some moisture, but the exteriors dry out, turning brown and crisp. Now, they’re not just a salty contrast, but a salty, crunchy contrast—a logical crown atop polenta, brothy beans, charred, roasted cauliflower, yogurt dip, tomato toast, and, of course, creamy chowder.
Frying capers is a bit more work than opening up a jar, sure—but it’s worth it. To do it, you’ll first want to dry your capers well. Pat them down on a kitchen towel. The drier they are, the less they’ll sputter and the crispier they’ll become. Then heat your oil in a skillet or, to reduce chances of splattering, a high-sided saucepan. You’ll want about ¼–½”. Wait for the oil to get hot: It should be shimmering. You can see if it’s ready by adding just ONE caper first; it should sizzle immediately. Add the capers, working in batches if you’re doing a lot at once (otherwise, you’ll cool the oil down)—and fry until they start to open up and turn brown, as few as 30 seconds and as long as 3 minutes, depending on your oil temp. Remove the capers from the oil with a slotted spoon or skimmer and let drain on a lined sheet pan. They’ll crisp as they cool.
Now you have snackable capers, but you also have another gift: caper-infused oil. For Christian’s soup, he uses that flavorful oil as the base for his sautéed aromatics. Use it as the base of a salad dressing or drizzle it over smashed potatoes or a big plate of sliced tomatoes. The world, as no one says, is your caper.
Get the recipe:
Rustic Leek and Potato Soup With Fried Herb GremolataA creamy potato soup without the puréeing, plus a crunchy, fresh topping you’ll want to scatter on everything.