I am quite sure that I have mentioned many times my obsession with Joel Robuchon‘s potato puree. If you have never tasted it, you might be thinking something like, “Oh mashed potatoes can be very satisfying, sure.” You are wrong. His potato puree is beyond mashed potatoes, beyond cream, beyond even butter. Each mouthful is transcendent; you’re filled with a sense of peace and the conviction that the world is full of goodwill. I’ve had it multiple times on two different continents and I cannot ever imagine getting enough. Sometimes they even send out an extra serving of it because they know I want a truckful.

I have thought about trying to replicate this gateway to nirvana multiple times, and last night I attempted it for the first time. There are lots of slightly different recipes for this floating around, so I picked the first one and dove in. The basic idea is to boil the potatoes, squeeze them through a ricer, beat a bunch of butter and milk into them, squeeze them through a strainer, and then finish it off with more butter and milk. I followed the recipe exactly with one exception: I didn’t have whole milk so I used heavy whipping cream instead.

My initial reaction was that my arm hurt. Perhaps I should have been weight training for this, because after 4 minutes of beating the potatoes dry, 5 minutes of beating butter in, and 15 minutes of cramming the mashed mixture through a sieve, my right arm was pretty upset with me. If I weren’t in pursuit of such a noble end, I might have given up.

As far as the finished product was concerned, I would rate my first effort as a B. They were definitely more rich and less chunky than the average mashed potatoes. I think the potatoes could have been cooked for a few more minutes, as some parts were difficult to press through the ricer and the texture at the end was still a little grainy. Another problem I noticed was that the potatoes didn’t fully absorb all the butter and cream. Even though I beat the mixture very vigorously with a wood spatula as instructed , there seemed to be a portion of buttery liquid that I couldn’t get into the potato. I am not sure if I didn’t allow the potato to dry enough or if the ratio of potato to butter was off, but it resulted in potato puree that was not quite as light as I wanted. While the end product was very tasty, it was not as creamy and smooth as the real thing. I did not expect to hit the nail on the head the first time; if it were easy to make the puree everyone would be making it all the time. However, I thought it was a solid first try and will continue to research the matter. For my next effort, I am going to consult The Complete Robuchon for advice from the source.

Recipe after the jump

Potato Puree

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds baking potatoes (Idaho Russets)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces, chilled
  • Sea salt to taste

Preparation

1. Scrub the potatoes, but do not peel them. Place the potatoes in a large pot, add salted water (1 tablespoon salt per quart of water) to cover by at least 1 inch. Simmer, uncovered, over moderate heat until a knife inserted into a potato comes away easily, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes as soon as they are cooked. (If they are allowed to cool in the water, the potatoes will end up tasting reheated.)

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil over high heat. Set aside.

3. As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. Pass the potatoes through the finest grid of a food mill into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan set over low heat. With a wooden spatula, stir the potatoes vigorously to dry them, 4 to 5 minutes. Now begin adding 12 tablespoons of the butter, little by little, stirring vigorously until each batch of butter is thoroughly incorporated; the mixture should be fluffy and light. Then slowly add about three fourths of the hot milk in a thin stream, stirring vigorously until the milk is thoroughly incorporated.

4. Pass the mixture through a flat fine-mesh (drum) sieve into another heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir vigorously, and if the puree seems a bit heavy and stiff, add additional butter and milk, stirring all the while. Taste for seasoning. (The puree may be made up to 1 hour in advance. Place in the top of a double boiler, uncovered, over simmering water. Stir occasionally to keep smooth.)

 

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