Forty-five minutes later, the comforting smell of buttery potatoes hanging in the air, I assessed my work. Each pommes duchesse looked majestic, even the slightly deflated ones. I took a bite. A crunchy exterior gave way to a fluffy inside, with just a hint of warm baking spice from the nutmeg, like an über-dignified tater tot. After I'd polished off my third perfect swirl, I sat at my kitchen table smug, happy, and full—an Ahab no more.