While it’s true that we mostly eat Italian at home, there are some dishes that even I have to admit the French do better. (I hope Angelina isn’t listening….) One of them is potato puree, also known as mashed potatoes, and, more specifically, the incredibly buttery version made famous by Joel Robuchon at Jamin, his Paris restaurant.
Makes enough to serve 4-6 as a side dish
- 1 kilo (2 lbs) Russet, Yukon Gold or other mealy potatoes
- 100g (1 stick) butter, or more! (see Notes)
- Whole milk or cream, q.b.
You begin by either steaming or boiling the potatoes in their jackets (Russets or Yukon golds would do well here) until perfectly tender. Drain them and run some cold water over them to cool them off slightly. Peel them as soon as they are cool enough to handle and cut them into chunks into a food mill.
Mill the potatoes into a dry pan over medium heat. With a wooden spoon, stir them and allow any water to evaporate. The potato puree will be rather stiff and hard to stir, but persist. And don’t worry if some of the potato begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, as this is a sign that the potatoes are drying as they should and will anyway soon rectify itself.
Now that the potato flesh is perfectly dry, it is ready to absorb lots and lots of butter, which you will add to the potatoes a bit at a time. When I say a lot, I mean at least a stick or more (100 g) for 1 kilo (2 lbs.) of potatoes. Season liberally with salt. As you add successive bits of butter, the puree will soften and form a kind of a ball. Taste them–they should be well seasoned and have a wonderfully buttery flavor. If not, add more butter and/or salt. Finally, thin out the puree with some hot milk (whole milk, obviously!) or, if you are feeling particularly decadent, with some cream, until you reach the consistency you prefer. I like mashed potatoes rather soft, just thick enough to hold their shape.
Serve immediately. I like to place a dab of butter on top of the mashed potatoes, just for show.
This recipe is from a wonderful cookbook co-authored by Robuchon and Patricia Wells called Simply French (William Morris & Co. 1991). Robuchon calls for a full 12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks or 150g) of butter and says that the amount may be doubled for a richer version! He also calls for passing the puree through a fine sieve, which produces a velvety texture. But for this ‘home-style’ version the food mill is enough. Unlike most mashed potatoes, these will keep for up to a hour before serving.