Forget the fluff and flam of modernist cooking, where display and scientific technique has put a make-believe banana ahead of the real thing. When it comes to memorable dishes, the greatest of all may be the mashed potatoes that came from the mind of a great Parisian chef, Joel Robuchon.
I first tasted these in 1981 in Robuchon’s first restaurant, Jamin, not far from the Eiffel Tower. This was the potato equivalent of the Hope Diamond: rare and unforgettable, and, we thought, never to be made in the home kitchen.
Jamin would close in 1993; Robuchon took a brief break, then made a brilliant comeback to set up a world network of restaurants at the high and middle end of the market.
What’s so beautiful about restaurants under the brand Robuchon (tested in the past two years in London and Tokyo) is the standard set by the man himself. There are no compromises, in ingredients, technique, decor, creativity or service.
Fortunately, Robuchon continues to serve these culinary miracles—alchemy applied to the humble spud—at all his outlets. Even more fortunately, he did finally present his recipe to the world: two parts, by weight, of potatoes to
one part butter, plus multiple sieving and mixing and even more sieving.
The Thermomix replicates the Robuchon texture in seconds and might save multiple heart attacks by reducing the potato-to-butter ratio to somewhere like 10:1. That’s one part butter to 10 parts potato. (Yes, butter freaks can add more.)
You’ll note that I prefer to cook the potatoes in a pressure cooker, rather than the Varoma, or on the stove-top, or baked in the oven, or steamed; simply, nothing cooks potatoes better or more efficiently than a pressure cooker. And better is not only about texture, or that the potatoes hold their shape, or anything in between: it’s about the retention of the essential flavour of the potato, a flavour that’s hard to define, but is closer to nuttiness than starch.
To use a term that has become part of the language: it is what it is.