Mashed Potatoes Versus Potato Purée
Creamy mashed potatoes are a classic American side dish, typically made by peeling the potatoes, dicing them, boiling them, and then mashing them while they cook in a pot. Perhaps you have memories of your mother using a potato masher to make this rustic dish, or perhaps a potato ricer to make it more refined. The French elevate this side dish by puréeing potatoes. For this dish, you leave the skins on the potatoes and cook them whole in order to prevent them from absorbing too much water, which in turn allows them to take on richer flavor from the cream and butter, making them more luxurious than even the best mashed potatoes. Patience is a must, as it takes time to properly incorporate the fat into the potatoes. Chef Keller shows you how to make this refined dish.
Also try: Pommes Purée.
Making a French potato purée starts with the right kind of potato. The best potato for this purée is the La Ratte fingerling, a dense French varietal that is renowned for its ability to absorb large quantities of cream and butter. Yukon Gold potatoes are a great substitute and are much more readily available in America.
Recipe: How to Make Potato Purée
- 190 grams cream, hot
- 225 grams cold butter, cubed
- 50 grams clarified butter (optional)
- 750 grams Yukon Gold potatoes
- Warm water as needed
- Kosher salt
- Unsalted butter for finishing
- Maldon salt for finishing
- Cutting board
- Paring knife
- 3-quart saucepot
- Slotted spoon
- Tamis, finest mesh
- Bowl scraper
- 4-quart copper core saucepan
- Stiff rubber spatula
- Serving bowl
Place the whole, unpeeled potatoes in a 3-quart saucepot and cover by 2 inches with cold water, slowly bring the water to a gentle simmer. Starting them in cold water prevents the skins from breaking. Cook the potatoes until they are extremely tender when tested with a paring knife. When ready, turn off the heat.
Working one potato at a time, remove from the water, place on the tamis, split the potato in half, and press the flesh through the screen using a stiff bowl scraper, while leaving the skins behind. It is a good idea to place a sheet of parchment paper underneath to collect the passed pulp.
Once all of the potatoes have been passed, transfer them to a 4-quart saucepan. Warm the saucepan over medium-low heat, use a stiff rubber spatula to incorporate ⅓ of the hot cream into the potatoes, and beat in a few cubes of butter with the rubber spatula until the butter is emulsified into the potatoes. Drizzle in a little clarified butter. Clarified butter adds a more intense butter flavor than whole butter.
Keep adding the cream, butter, and clarified butter to develop a creamy purée. The ideal pommes purée should have a milky, creamy appearance. If the purée begins to look oily with the fat separating from the potatoes, the emulsion is breaking. To restore the emulsion, you may need to add hot water periodically, just as you would for mayonnaise or hollandaise. Additionally, regulate the heat to allow the butter to be incorporated without losing the emulsion.
Once you’ve achieved your desired texture, season with salt, transfer to a serving bowl, and top with a pad of butter.