Sunday, March 16, 2008

Joël Robuchon's pommes purée

...aka the best mashed potatoes EVER!

After eating at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Vegas, I was inspired to try to recreate his famous pommes purée. Somehow "mashed potatoes" doesn't sound right given the level to which Robuchon has taken this dish. I found his recipe, along with quite a bit of discussion, on the eGullet forums. Two pieces of equipment were important to the recipe: a ricer and a tamis. I had never used any of these, nor did I own them.

One of my wife's bosses surprised her by giving us a ricer! We were very excited. For those who don't know what a ricer is, it's basically a device that squeezes on the food and forces it through small holes about the size of a grain of rice, hence the name. It is more efficient and produces a more even result than using a potato masher.

The second piece of equipment, the tamis, is even more obscure. It's a flat bottomed sieve with a rim around it (kinda like a Chinese steamer), so that when you push food through the sieve, it comes out very smooth. I didn't have one, nor was I going to go out and find one, so I decided to try using a regular sieve.
The recipe is intense: 2 lbs of potatoes (about 3 russets), and 2 sticks of butter! I ended up using 1.5 sticks in an attempt to be "healthier" (who am I kidding?). I followed the recipe as best I could, and it was quite a workout. I was sweating by the time I was done whipping the milk into the puree, but man was it worth it. It was delicious.

Trying to push the mashed potatoes through my sieve did not happen very easily. I gave up after trying a few minutes. The stuff that did go through the sieve, however, had taken the puree to a whole new level of refinement. The texture was so smooth, even, creamy, and luxurious. No wonder they only give you a small portion at the restaurant--it's quite a bit of work!

Next time I try this, I will use truffle salt, which I'm sure will be awesome. I will also boil the potatoes a little longer and a little slower, as I feel they were still a bit undercooked in the center. Next Thanksgiving, I'm going to volunteer to make a big batch of this!

Pommes Purée
2 lbs russet potatoes
8 oz butter (I used 6 oz)
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups milk brought to a boil and kept hot
sea salt to taste
  1. Starting with cold water, boil unpeeled potatoes until a fork inserted meets barely any resistance (may take 30 min or more)
  2. Peel potatoes while still hot (the potatoes are incredibly easy to peel at this point)
  3. Push the potatoes through a ricer into a pot and stir over very low heat until steam no longer escapes (about 5 minutes)
  4. Add butter by vigorously stirring potatoes until incorporated
  5. Add 3/4 cup milk in a slow stream while vigorously whipping potatoes, incorporating air into the mixture
  6. Add salt, more milk as necessary, until desired taste and texture
  7. For that extra level of refinement, pass through a tamis


jko said...

Mmmmmm so good. I say we go all out and use the full butter measurement next time! (I can't believe I just said that). It really did taste "almost" like Joel Robuchon's potatoes.

Pommes puree pushed through the strainer: A+

The rest: A- (great flavor, but still a bit chunky compared to the above)

michelle @ thursday night smackdown said...

whoa, yum. i just got thomas keller's french laundry cookbook and he's all about the tamis. i want to get one so i can try stuff like this.

and i agree with miniplum: next time, go for the gusto with the butter.

chiscotti said...

uhm... i'll hold you to that volunteer offer :P remember, your family is huge :) Everyone needs at least one tablespoon full of pommes puree

Dad said...

I couldn't wait to try your pommes puree next Thanksgiving. But are you sure you can do it for 30 people? And how many pounds of butter?

cheffjonny said...

sounds alot like mine, but I use a pinch of fresh nutmeg and a sprinle of parmesan in them...yum, starch is good.

Unknown said...

mashed potato at this level is definitely labor intensive (it takes me about 20 minutes to whip the butter into 2.5kg potato)...and also as a side note, the real Robuchon recipe calls for much more butter, I won't say exactly how much, but at LEAST a 1:1 ratio (of POST tamis potato to butter)! That's one reason pomme puree "to go" is a no-no policy at his restaurants.

Economist said...

Robuchon himself said (to Anthony Bourdain on camera): "1kilo of potatoes, 250 grams of butter, voila!".That would translate proportionately as 2 pounds of potatoes, 1/2 pound of butter---this recipe and not some others one sees.

Dee said...

The great news is that you don't have to peel the potatoes with a ricer - we never do and it works great. We discovered that by watching this potato recipe -