Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Everybody loves... MASHED POTATOES

It's true. Everyone loves them. I've decided to start a feature on my blog where I take classic, everyday sort of foods that everybody loves and make them maximally delicious, either through my own cunning and genius, or through that of someone else. Today, it's sort of both. OK mostly the latter, but I had to get in the last word/ingredient. Today we're making mashed potatoes with JOEL ROBUCHON!!! *applause*

The principle behind Joël's recipe is basically butter. I've essentially learned that in cooking, if you want to make something maximally delicious, what you have to do is have the courage to add much more butter than you think is a good idea. Example: Grilled cheese. When I make grilled cheese, it's pretty good. When my boyfriend Clément makes grilled cheese, it's amazing. And do you know why? Because Clément is not afraid of butter. I have to admit I'm a little afraid. So I let Clément make the grilled cheese, I don't watch, and I enjoy them without ever knowing the quantity of butter I am actually consuming.

Same thing with MASHED POTATOES. Except I can successfully make those, thanks to Joël.

The other secret to perfect mashed potatoes is using the perfect potatoes, a concept I briefly discussed in my last post and which has recently changed my life. We used Bintje potatoes for their high starch content. Known as a "floury" or "mealy" potato, it's ideal for dishes where it is supposed to fall apart, be smashed, etc. North American potatoes that fit the bill are Idaho and Russet. Potatoes that you want to hold their form, such as for making potato salads, are known as "firm" or "waxy" potatoes, and their lower starch content makes them hold up better during cooking. Charlotte, BF15, Yukon, Red, and Fingerling are all examples.

So, to summarize, butter makes everything more delicious, and more butter makes it even more delicious; and, using the right potato for your dish is a revelation that will change your potato-cooking life, if it hasn't already.

Pictured at the beginning of post, Chipolatas (homemade from Boucherie Risch et Cie Sté, 3 rue du Capitaine Ferber 75020 Paris) and mashed potatoes; pictured here, Tunisian-spiced pan-fried chicken, roasted carrots, salad with lemon yogurt dressing, and... mashed potatoes. Leftovers, what can I say.

Without any more ado, on to Joël:

PUREE DE POMMES DE TERRE (adapted but mostly just translated/converted from Tout Robuchon), serves 6

2.2 pounds potatoes, i.e. 1 kilo (Russet, Yukon gold, Bintje)
1 cup very cold butter
1 cup milk
salt, pepper

Wash potatoes, do not peel. Put them in a pot with 2 quarts of cold water and one tablespoon kosher salt. cook them on high heat, covered, until a knife can pierce them easily (about 25 minutes).[Note: leaving them in the boiling water for longer will cause them to fall apart]

While they are cooking, cut the butter in small cubes, then put it back in the fridge.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them. Peel them while still warm and pass them through a vegetable ricer (as fine as possible). If you don't have a vegetable ricer, a sieve will do fine. And if you don't have/feel like using a sieve, just mash them with a fork (they'll be lumpier, but still good). Put the potatoes in a pot. Heat the pot to medium heat, drying the puree a bit by stirring it with a spatula for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, wet a small saucepan with water, pour out the water but do not dry it. Add the milk and bring it to a boil. As the milk is heating, turn the potatoes down to low heat, and add the cold butter cubes to the potatoes little by little, stirring constantly. The mixture should thicken and become slick and unctuous (Joël said so).

Still on low heat, add the hot milk little by little, stirring vigorously until completely absorbed. Taste, season with salt and pepper.

BONUS: Add a rounded tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I said so).

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