Potato Puree

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Please ignore the short rib in the above photo and focus on the cloud of white beneath it. That, my friends, is what we in the cooking industry (or the food blogging industry) call a potato puree. It’s a blend of riced potato innards (Yukon Gold & russets), two sticks of butter, heated cream and milk.

We owe this recipe to Suzanne Goin and her “Sunday Suppers at Lucques” which caused us some consternation two weeks ago when it almost killed us with melted plastic.

But my friend Jimmy was coming over for dinner last Sunday and I wanted to impress: so I turned to page 301 for Suzanne’s “Braised Beef Short Ribs with Potato Puree.” The rib recipe was fairly typical: brown in oil, aromatize with onion, carrot and celery, and deglaze with red wine and stock (plus, here, port and balsamic vinegar). The end result was scrumptious and comforting in this cold weather, but my heart belonged to the potato puree.

I’ve never been a big fan of mashed potatoes probably because, like most people, I associate them with all the bad mashed potatoes I’ve had in my life. Dry mashed potatoes; lumpy mashed potatoes; gloppy mashed potatoes and so on and so on.

The potato puree, on the other hand, is silky and smooth; it’s an almost even blend of potato and fat and that formula, however sickening you nutritionists might find it, is a formula that winning chefs–from Joel Robuchon onward–embrace to the fullest.

Here’s how to enter the world of potato decadence. Boil 1 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes and 1 1/2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes until they are SUPER tender, a knife should go into them quite easily. The last time I made a dish like this, I undercooked the potatoes and that was a big mistake. So better to err on the side of overcooking them: it should take about 45 minutes, says Ms. Goin.

Once they’re cooked, you strain and then set aside to cool. When they’re not too hot to handle or too cold to hold, you peel them. Once peeled, you put them through a ricer. It’s fun!

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You rice all the potatoes into a pot:

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Meanwhile, you heat 3/4 cup heavy cream and 3/4 cup whole milk in a saucepan and then turn off the heat.

Ok, so now it’s time to fatten up those potatoes. First, turn the heat on to the pan with all those potato shreds and stir around for a few minutes “to dry them out a little.” And then you add 2 sticks of butter, cut into chunks, a little at a time–stirring constantly.

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Season with 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt and when all the butter’s been incorporated, you stir in the cream mixture “until you have a smooth puree.” Then taste for seasoning and you’re done!

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It’s not the kind of thing you eat every day, but if you’re having guests and you’re making something that needs a starchy base, potato puree is the way to go. Look how happy Jimmy and Craig are:

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Potato puree brings out the best in everyone. Make it for the holidays and watch your Christmas gifts multiply. You’ll thank me later.

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