He was called the ‘Chef of The Century’, a ‘Culinary Genius’, lifetime achievement winner and Michelin’s most awarded starred chef.Joël Robuchon was a chef who impacted French gastronomy and the world with his refined and ingredient-focused approach to cuisine.
In a career that spanned over 60 years and over 30 Michelin stars, Robuchon was responsible for creating a number of delicious signature dishes. His truffle pie and cauliflower cream with caviar was just one of the chef’s many executions. However, his most famous dish, the one that wowed Michelin at his Jamin restaurant in Paris - the place where he received three Michelin stars in the space of just three years - was actually a rather simple plate of mashed potatoes, aka: Purée de pommes de terre.
That’s correct, the chef’s most famous, most delicious, most talked about dish was Pomme Purée: the only one of his creations he went on to serve at every single one of his restaurants around the world.
It’s silky smooth, rich, creamy, deep and lathered in butter, yet, thanks to technique, the dish remains light, fluffy, whipped and passed to perfection. It really is a rare occasion in dining when a side plate steals the show of an entire meal, when an inconspicuous bowl of mashed potato can blow away world class sugar work, complicated courses and perfect pairings of a tasting menu. But that was always the case with the famous Pomme Puree of Joel Robuchon - a dish that, even if it looks simple on paper, is damn difficult to recreate.
In 1983 they were described by The New York Times as: “mashed potatoes that would make grandmother weep with envy”. After trying them ourselves in 2014 we have to agree - they are some granny-ruining spuds.
1 kg Potatoes: Yukon or Ratte
250 G chilled butter cut into small cubes
250 ml Milk
Salt and Pepper as Needed
1: Boil the potatoes in salty water for 25 minutes - keep the skins on and stop when tender.
2: Leave potatoes to cool before peeling the skins.
3: Rinse a saucepan but leave a small amount of water in the bottom. Add milk and slowly warm.
4: Run the peeled potatoes through a food mill on the smallest setting into a pan.
5: Heat the potatoes on a medium heat for around five minutes to remove excess moisture. You want to dry them out.
6: Turn the potatoes to a low heat and slowly start to add small cubes of the chilled butter as you stir. You have to stir the potatoes a lot and fast to give them a perfectly creamy consistency.
7: Once the butter is mixed well, add the warm milk and whip quickly and energetically to make them smooth.
8: Taste and season.
9: Finally, pass the puree for extra silky texture.
More largess from the apple of the earth
Perhaps this preparation piqued your interest in the potential of the potato and you won’t be put out by its prospects. Without venturing beyond mashed potatoes, the possibilities are endless. If you’re in an autumnal mood, try adding pumpkin and sage in this recipe. Or for a carnival of textures, fry the mashed ‘taters and throw them in with cabbage to make bubble and squeak. And to innovate further with form and flavour, have a crack at mashed potato pancakes with maple syrup.
Don’t be shy of dabbling the potato’s textural versatility either. After all, mashed ain’t the only way they come, and what is a potato’s virtue if not its range of sensations on the fork and tongue? Crunch into carrot and potato croquettes, with sesame and poppy seeds that positively ping off the palate. Sink your teeth into roast potatoes with chanterelles, or fill a flaky potato cup with vegetables like carrot and sweet cabbage.
Should the Michelin Guide continue to award stars to Singapore's hawker stalls? Do Singaporeans really care what the Red Guide says about their favourite street food? Singaporean food writer Evelyn Chen shares her point of view.