It was the recipe that made Joël Robuchon, the Michelin-starred “chef of the century” who has died aged 73, famous and everyone else fat. There are several versions, with the restaurant’s famously consisting of a 2:1 potato to butter ratio. However, the British chef Tom Aikens – who worked for Robuchon in the early 90s – described how it took two hours and every ounce of the chef’s elbow grease to make, and included more butter than spud. There’s a video of Robuchon in the kitchen, hassling some poor underling with a whisk to add “encore du beurre, du beurre, du beurre”. The irony of course is that, five years ago, Robuchon gave up eating butter (and a few other things, as he told the New York Post) and lost 27kg (4st). Still, few dishes have kept a “the best in the world” title quite as consistently as this silken creamy mash. Best eaten in tiny helpings.
For successful mashed potatoes, salt the cooking water when it is still cold and salt the finished purée carefully. If you can, use a food mill or potato ricer instead of a blender or food processor. When the potato has gone through the ricer, put it in a saucepan over a medium heat and turn it vigorously with a wooden spatula to dry it out a bit. Stir in the butter first and the whole milk later. Finish mixing with a whisk for a lighter purée.
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 35 minutes
Ingredients: 1 kg potatoes, preferably rattes or BF 15, scrubbed but unpeeled
250 g butter, diced and kept well chilled until use
250 ml whole milk
Salt and pepper
1. Put the potatoes in a saucepan with 2 litres of cold water and 1 tablespoon of coarse salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until a knife slips in the potatoes easily and cleanly, about 25 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes and peel them. Put them through a potato ricer (or a food mill fitted with its finest disk) into a large saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and dry the potato flesh out a bit by turning it vigorously with a spatula for about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, rinse a small saucepan and pour out the excess water but do not wipe it dry. Add the milk and bring to a boil.
4. Turn the heat under the potatoes to low and incorporate the well-chilled butter bit by bit, stirring it in energetically for a smooth, creamy finish. Pour in the very hot milk in a thin stream, still over a low heat, still stirring briskly. Keep stirring until all the milk is absorbed. Turn off the heat and taste for salt and pepper.
5. For an even lighter, finer purée, put it through a very fine sieve before serving.