Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mashed Potato Passion

My husband adores potatoes. I must be honest, I get bored with them so I'm always on the lookout for something exciting in the world of potatoes. I discovered these mashed potatoes in a British cookery magazine a couple of years ago. I read the article that made a passing reference to this creamy, buttery potato mash called aligot. I missplaced the magazine and could not remember the unusual name. For two years I've searched for this elusive recipe because I just knew potato love was there.
Last week I received my monthly "Cooks Illustrated". There it was, aligot. It's not British, but French. Specifically, french mashed potatoes. Leave it to the french to turn potato love into potato passion. These are simply the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten; perfect for Valentine's Day. The main rule for making good mashed potatoes is not to overwork the potatoes in order to keep them from becoming gluey. This recipe defies that with vigorous stirring.I read and reread the instruction: 'put potatoes in food processor and pulse until smooth'. I couldn't bring myself to that point so I simply mashed them with a manual potato stomper and proceeded from there. This is not a low-cal mash. This is an intensely rich serving of potatoey, buttery, cheesy goodness.
Traditionally, the french use a raw milk cheese (tomme fraiche) which is unavailable for importation to the US due to a ban on all raw (unpasteurized) cows milk cheeses less than 60 days old. The recipe called for mozzarella and Gruyere; I opted for mozzarella and white cheddar. Delicious. The interesting point about the large amount of cheese in this recipe is the stretchiness of the dish. You can pull the spoon up and potatoes rise above the dish. It is delicious and entertaining! Besides the cheese, there is lots of butter, garlic and whole milk. How could one not be passionate about that?
My husband loved this dish so much that I will include it in my Valentine's menu. I really wanted to share it with you so you could create a little passion among your spuds as well. Oh, to serve in the traditional manner, you should fill an individual bowl (ramekin) to the very top with the aligot. Besides being impressed with the soft sheen of the spuds, you will notice this is a loose, creamy mash versus the American ideal of mounded whipped potatoes.
Of course, all of you who know me, know I can't leave well enough alone. I really want to "southern-ize" this recipe. So, instead of the garlic or maybe in addition to a tad of garlic, I think I will try yellow cheddar and a jar of drained pimentos. I have to leave the mozzarella as is because that is where the stretch comes from. But I think pimento cheese stretchy potatoes will go over very well. Viva la South!

Aligot (from Cook's Illustrated, March & April '09)

Serves: 6

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (4-6 medium), peeled, cut into 1/2" thick slices, rinsed well, and drained
Table salt
6 TB unsalted butter
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1-1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup Gruyere (I used white cheddar)
ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a large saucepan; add water to cover by 1" and add 1 TB salt. Partiall cover saucepan with lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to med.-low, and simmer until potatoes are tender and just break apart when poked with a fork, about 12-17 minutes. Drain potatoes and dry out pan.
Transfer potatoes to a food processor, add butter, garlic, and 1-1/2 tsp salt. Pulse until butter is melted and incorporated into potatoes, about ten 1 second pulses. Add 1 cup milk and continue to porcess until potatoes are smooth and creamy, about 20 seconds, scrape bowl about half way through.
Return potato mixture to saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir in cheeses, 1 cup at a time, until incorporated. Continue to cook potatoes, stirring vigorously, until cheese is fully melted and mixture is smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. If mixture is difficult to stir and seems thick, stir in 2 TB milk at a time until potatoes are loose and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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