Potato Puree a la Joel Robuchon

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I’m taking Thanksgiving off this year — literally.  My husband suggested we spend the better part of the week in San Francisco and visit with our youngest who is in art school there instead of flying him home for the holiday as we have the past two years.  As much as I enjoy the holiday, I have to confess I am enjoying even more that I have not had to decide which recipes to try this year, make the extensive shopping list requiring more than one trip for groceries, write out the plan for when to prep what, or figure out who will come and whether I’ll need to set up more than one table for guests. I’m looking forward to my favorite city away from home and time with my husband exploring streets we’ve not walked before, and whatever hilly views we may find as a result.

I’ve done much thinking in the past month about this space and my decision to spend November writing about something other than food each day has been a good one.  Working toward the 50,000 words necessary to say “I’ve won” the NaNoWriMo challenge has put much needed distance between myself and food in general and as much as I’ve continued to cook, I’ve avoided taking photos of any of it.  Recipes have been put to one side and cooking has been impromptu with what I’ve had on hand.  In spite of the time I’ve taken to write — sometimes as many as 3,200 words a day, I’ve enjoyed it.  So what will I do once I’ve finished my draft November 30th?  Honestly, I don’t believe I will be finished.  The book I’m writing feels as if it has at least 100,000 words in it, with other stories that might connect at a later date.  But I’ve promised myself I’ll put it away for a month to let it rest so I can enjoy the holidays.  It’s a significant year for us — my husband turns 50, my mother 75, and we’re celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  Milestones, all.  When January gets here, I’ll look at the crude draft I’ve created and begin working on revisions, expecting that work to take quite a long time.  But I’m determined to end up with a solid manuscript and once I’m at that point, I’ll decide what happens next.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So I hope this finds you well, and looking forward to the type of holiday week you most enjoy — whether it’s an occasion to gather around a big table potluck style, or cozy up to a meal someone prepared especially for you.  If you’re traveling, be safe.

In the meantime, I thought I would share this recipe for potato puree I’ve had ready and waiting about two years now.  It’s decadent to be sure, but if you’re someone who loves mashed potatoes, then this recipe will make you think differently about them — in a good way.  My husband and I first enjoyed them at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  They were served as I have presented them here, in little colored Le Creuset pots.  Some might say they’re on the fussy side to prepare, but I don’t think so. You’ll get an arm workout stirring them, but the resulting texture is well worth the effort.

Equipment is a necessity, as well as patience and butter.  A lot of it.

I boiled 2 lbs. of small potatoes submerged completely in salted water with the peelings on until a fork easily passes through one.  Test several to be sure.

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Allow the potatoes to cool, then tear the peelings off.  It’s very easy and often just rubbing one in your hand will remove much of the peeling.

Using a food mill or potato ricer, run a few of the potatoes at a time through the medium or large-holed disc.  This is the part where my patience can be tested.

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Once the potatoes have been riced, allow them to sit over a medium flame, stirring to dry them out.  When you notice there no longer is steam rising from them, begin adding the butter a bit at a time, stirring rapidly with a wooden spoon until each bit is melted before continuing.  Stir in the hot milk until it’s well incorporated.

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Finally, using a rubber spatula, rub or scrape the potato puree through a fine-meshed strainer (foreground) or tamis (background).  Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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Recipe Notes

  • The recipe I relied upon which is closest to authentic can be found here at Saveur, but I did use more milk adding a bit at a time to get the consistency right at the end.  They should not be runny.
  • I’ve made mashed potatoes any number of ways and there is no way mashed potatoes can be compared to potato puree.  I love mashed potatoes, and I love potato puree.  They’re just different dishes that happen to be made with potatoes.  I wouldn’t choose to make potato puree often simply because of the amount of butter it contains, but it’s delicious in small quantities for special occasions.
  • No matter what, never put potatoes in a blender or food processor to puree them.  You will end up with a thick, sticky, paste like substance that you might be able to stucco a house with.  Ask me how I know.
  • I truly enjoy making recipes like this.  The result doesn’t come quickly, but when I cook, that’s not what I aim for.  I enjoy tasting truly exceptional food and if I’m able to come close to what I’ve enjoyed in an excellent restaurant, then it’s all the more fun.
  • If you think you’d like to try this for a holiday meal where much is going on, then I would recommend prepping the potatoes up to the point where they’re riced.  Keep them at room temperature.  About 30 minutes before serving time, heat the riced potatoes then begin adding the butter and proceed from there.  This is not a recipe that should be made ahead and reheated.
  • If you’re curious about L’Atelier, there’s an great write up about it at Tiny Urban Kitchen.

More on Potato Puree from around the web

Cooking by the Book — Ultimate Mashed Potatoes by Joel Robuchon

Cooking for My Wife — Joel Robuchon’s Pommes Puree

The French Wench — Joel Robuchon’s Famous Potato Mash

Not Quite Nigella — Pesto Rack of Lamb & The Best Mashed Potato (pommes puree)

The Amateur Gourmet — Potato Puree

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Leaves courtesy of my childhood friend, Becky, who sent them via UPS from New York.)