Suzi's Blog

The Science of Mashed Potatoes: Why Robuchon’s Recipe Works [Don't Skimp on the Butter!]

You know that you cannot have Christmas dinner without mashed potatoes. You could to it, but it would be wrong. Yeah, you can do scalloped and cheesed and God-knows-what but you have to have them mashed.

There’s a consensus that the best recipe comes from Joel Robuchon. I’ve blogged those here before but I found this great site:

http://www.edinformatics.com/math_science/science_of_cooking/science_of_mashed_potatoes.htm

Here they discuss in minute detail how to make the Robuchon recipe, including the choice of Ratte potatoes for their particular nutty flavor. The “Americanized” version of the widely circulated Robuchon recipe was written by Patricia Wells and uses half the butter that the real French recipe uses. Go French, not American.

You’ll have to accept that making these mashed potatoes here in the United States will give you a wonderful product, but not the original one. Remember how they talk about terroir for wine? The effect of sun and soil on the grapes? Well, terroir applies to everything, including potatoes. And then there’s the butter. Americans produce great butter. The French produce the best butter in the world. As a New Year’s Resolution, I suggest you plan a trip to Paris.

But, but, go to this site and follow the directions and you’ll think I’m paranoid and you’ll be perfectly satisfied.

And, there’s more. This site presents the mashed potato recipes from several great chefs so you can compare, contrast and perhaps concoct:

  • Thomas Keller [two version]
  • Gordon Ramsay [two versions]
  • Grant Achatz [from Alinea in Chicago]

Mash on!

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Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes Thanks to Joel Robuchon

If you need mashed potatoes today, Thanksgiving, and who doesn’t, then this is the best recipe. The best. I love this recipe because it combines metric and English measurement units. Just what you need to worry about with all the bustle today. So, as an act of kindness, 500 grams of potatoes is  1.1 pounds. 250 grams of butter is just over a half pound, 2 sticks.

No, this is not a record for the ratio of potatoes to butter. You want to induce cardiac disease? Then Google Patricia Wells. I believe she calls for equal proportions. Suzen and I love Patricia but there are limits to love.

 

Joel Robuchon’s Mashed Potatoes

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams Ratte potatoes (fingerlings or Yukon’s can also be used)
  • 250 grams chilled unsalted high quality French butter– chilled and cut into small pieces
  • Hot Milk, as needed 1/2 -3/4 cup
  • Salt to taste

Preparation:

Scrub the potatoes, but do not peel the potatoes. Cook them in their skins covered by at least 1 inch of water. For each liter of water add 10 grams of salt. Simmer uncovered over moderate heat for 20-30 minutes or until a knife can easily be inserted and removed. As soon as the potatoes are done remove and drain. Do not allow them to sit in the water.

Meanwhile, bring the milk just to a boil in a medium sized saucepan and set aside

Once potatoes are cool enough to handle (but still hot), peel them and cut into manageable pieces. You can discard the skin or use them in another dish. Then pass the potatoes through the grid of a food mill (or use a potato ricer)passing them into a large heavy bottomed saucepan.

Discard the skin after it has been peeled away. Place the pan over low heat and using a wooden spatula stir the potatoes to dry them out (approximately 4-5 minutes).

Begin adding 3/4 of the butter, little by little vigorously stirring until the butter is incorporated. This should be done in a similar manner as one prepares any butter emulsion (starting off with a very small amount of butter to start the emulsion).

Slowly add the milk in a thin stream (a little at a time) till the desired consistency is reached. You may only need a very small amount of the milk, depending on the potatoes used, amount of butter used, and personal taste. Stir vigorously till all the milk is incorporated.

Then stir the puree with a whisk to incorporate air and make the puree fluffy.

Pass the puree through a fine drum sieve to further lighten and smooth the dish. This can be repeated 2 or 3 times for to make the puree silky smooth.

Taste for seasoning. If not using immediately, place in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Whisk occasionally to keep smooth. The puree can be further adjusted with hot milk or butter before serving

If you don’t serve the potatoes immediately you can keep them warm for an hour using a double boiler.

Remember because they are so rich you only need a small amount per person.

Source: Joel Robuchon and the website: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://greenmarketrecipes.com/vegetables/robuchons_mashed_pototoes.htm&hl=en&strip=1