This week food editor TRISH DESEINE remembers chef JOËL ROBUCHON and his PURÉED POTATOES …
There’s a cool wind blowing today down on the Mizen, and the sailors cramming into Schull main street don’t look quite as ridiculous as they usually do wearing their Helly Hansen uniforms and various flotation devices with any water or boats well out of sight. I’m not a summer heat person and the recent Irish ‘heatwave’ (or global warming episode) was as shocking and unpleasant to me as it was to the grass and bracken, now slowly recovering their proper greenness, thanks be to God.
So today, like most days if I’m honest, my thoughts turn to potatoes and butter. But not just any old potatoes and butter. The death this week of acclaimed French chef Joël Robuchon, meant that the world’s media has been full of his signature dish, potato purée.
In English, it has mostly been referred to as ‘mashed potatoes’. There is so much lost in translation between this label and Robuchon’s masterful dish that I felt that, in hommage to him and in remembrance to the first three Michelin star dinner I enjoyed (including the sacred purée) many years ago in Paris, you might like to try it out on this chilly August day. First, catch your potatoes.
Joël Robuchon’s Purée de Pommes de Terre
25 minutes cooking
10 minutes finishing
1 kg Ratte de Touquet potatoes (or as waxy potatoes as you can find in Ireland!)
250g cold, salted butter. (Yes, that’s 250g. But way fewer calories than chips, said M. Robuchon.)
200ml or so of full fat milk
Salt and freshly ground white pepper (Robuchon doesn’t always mention these but perhaps it is because they are taken for granted, and there is plenty of salt in the cooking water and butter.)
Try to choose potatoes of the same size, they will cook more uniformly.
Wash them, but do not peel them. Keeping the skins on keeps the flavour and texture in.
Put them in a large saucepan and cover with cold water, 2 or 3 centimetres over the potatoes, adding 10g of salt per litre of water.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes before checking. Pierce a potato with a knife, lift it out of the water and if it falls back in immediately, it’s done.
Drain the potatoes and peel while they are still hot. Put them on a plate and roll them as you are peeling to avoid burning your fingers!
Press the hot potatoes through a ricer – note, still no ‘mashing’ involved and NEVER an electric mixer – into a large saucepan on low heat.
Work them gently with a wooden spoon to remove any further moisture. Then add the cold butter little by little, incorporating it gently into the potatoes. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a simmer.
Once all the butter has been absorbed by the potatoes (or is it the other way round?) add the milk little by little, still stirring gently with the wooden spoon.
Once it comes together as a smooth purée, switch to a hand whisk to make it silky smooth.
The correct consistency sees it falling off the whisk like a creamy waterfall. Then, to reach true Robuchon stellar purée heights, push the now celestial substance through a fine sieve and stir again gently with the whisk before serving.
It is divine. Thank you, and rest in peace, Monsieur Robuchon.
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