They say deaths come in threes and boy has the culinary world in 2018 suffered the effects of that urban legend. First Anthony Bourdain. Then Jonathan Gold. And now, Joël Robuchon.
My first experience at a Robuchon establishment was in Tokyo, where he owns this strange mansion-esque building that houses three Robuchon restaurants and one bar. I’ve eaten at all three, even had drinks at the bar.
Living in Asia, it’s easy to travel around the region and in every cosmopolitan city of this part of the world, there is at least one L’Atelier that is starred by Michelin. And that is the extent I know about him: A decorated chef with a lot of stars around the globe.
Reading tributes, I now have a better understanding of the man and the impact he had on global fine dining. Pete Wells’ NYTimes piece basically sums it up perfectly.
I don’t really have much to contribute but I did come across a mashed potato recipe of his I’ve cooked several times. They are French style mashed potatoes, creamier and richer than the mashed potatoes Americans are used to, perfect for when you want to control mashed potato intake because honestly I can eat an entire pot of American style mashed potatoes. Oops!
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
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.
RIP, Chef, and thank you for your contribution.