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!

Glazed Carrots by Joel Robuchon

glazed carrots

This carrot dish is just the sort of “side” dish you want in your portfolio. The “main” course in your meal of course gets the main attention in your cooking preparation. But main dishes rarely stand on their own. They need support. Your house or apartment should not have “weak” sides and neither should your meal.

This dish has several wonderful features. It’s easy to make, offers full flavor, yet is subtle. These delicate carrots can be matched with a zillion main courses. The flavor here is distinctly carrot — thanks to the cooking technique — yet is understated. This dish will not clash with rest of your meal. We served these carrots with Robuchon’s Basque Style Chicken with Bell Peppers and Tomatoes [see our recent blog!]. What we needed was a side dish that would offer contrast, not competition.

The carrots are cooked in water with sugar and butter. It’s very French, and very successful. In your mouth, you taste buttery soft, sweet carrot. It’s a dish you will return to many times.

Glazed Carrots

Yield: 10 t0 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ pounds (600 g.) carrots, peeled and cut into rounds ⅛inch (3 mm.) thick
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons (60 g.) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g.) sugar

Preparation:

Put the carrots in a large pot with 2 cups (50 cl.) water. The water should just cover them; if it doesn’t, add more. Add a pinch of salt and the rest of the ingredients. (If you had to add more water, add proportionally more sugar, too.)

To make sure the carrots cook gently and without coloring, cut a circle of parchment paper the size of the pot, prick it a few with a fork or knife, and lay it on top of the carrots. Bring to a simmer and cook about 25 minutes over medium heat.

Remove the parchment paper and cook for 5 minutes uncovered. Rotate the pot on the burner and keep an eye on the heat. The carrots are cooked when all the water has disappeared at which point they should be meltingly tender, and gloss with butter and sugar, and perhaps slightly blonded by the heat.

Source: The Complete Robuchon by Joel Robuchon