The Elegance of Joël Robuchon's Mashed Potatoes
The silky, butter-drenched whip of pommes de terre is iconic for a reason.
Chef Joël Robuchon, who died on Monday at 73, is known for a lot of things. Robuchon brought French fine dining to the masses, making it accessible to the global diner without sacrificing an ounce of precision or quality, and over the course of his career, his restaurants earned 31 Michelin stars—more than any chef in history. He also introduced the world to a potato dish so heavenly, so absurdly buttery, that it changed the world forever: his signature pomme purée.
The dish, which celebrates the simplicity for which Robuchon was known, is nothing short of iconic. The chef first made his signature dish at the Paris restaurant Jamin in the 1980s, effectively changing the game. (As Jane Sigal wrote in Food & Wine in 2006, "Haute restaurants didn't serve lowly potatoes in the '80s.") Served at L'ATELIER de Joël Robuchon locations around the globe, the silky mashed potatoes mesmerized generations of chefs and home cooks alike.
Robuchon's potatoes are the sort of dish that everyone makes their own. Rich Torrisi had his version—which calls for three sticks of butter—and Anthony Bourdain had his, one of our favorite iterations of the classic. Bourdain called his version, "Mashed Potatoes, Sort of Robuchon-Style," and we published it in 2016. If you're unintimidated by the prospect of using six sticks of butter, you'll find Bourdain's riff to be quite beautiful.
You can also go the purist route. The key to the traditional pomme purée, explained Steve Benjamin, former executive chef at L’ATELIER de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas, is La Ratte fingerling potatoes.
"The La Rattes are very firm and cook evenly," Benjamin said. "They also have a very particular chestnut-like flavor.”
The butter helps, too. In fact, a third of Robuchon's pomme purée is butter. After the potatoes are simmered, they're passed through a food mill and whisked with milk and cold French butter. The outcome is transcendent.
This week, we're celebrating Joël Robuchon's life by cooking his recipes; you can find eight excellent ones, including his famous potatoes, right here.