Friday, November 5, 2010
November Project: Truffle Mashed Potatoes
During the two years I worked in the kitchen at La Toque, my holidays were filled with the sweaty camaraderie of my fellow chefs and perfect plates passed out to paying strangers. New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter- I always had to work. We slaved away over steaming pots and searing meats rather than swooning table-side over a decadent chocolate molten cake with the ones we love. Holidays weren’t a total wash. I was always well rewarded for my servitude on these sacred days with unlimited oysters, spoonfuls of caviar, black truffle crème brûlée, rare wines and special occasion bubbly. Eating unceremoniously hunched over my cutting board, I would often take pleasure in my unique position to create marvelous celebrations for others.
But working on Thanksgiving! That is just sacrilege! Can you imagine calling a restaurant and making a reservation for dinner on the fourth Thursday of November, without even thinking about the poor sods who have to give up their day of gluttony and leisure to make that happen!? Who are these people?!
So there I am, shuffling unwillingly into the cold, sterile kitchen, miles away from my mom’s kitchen-- warm with sunlight and crowded with family, or my own kitchen with its turmeric stained countertops and lightly greased stove. The background drone of commercial oven fans was grating compared to the smooth sounds of Willie Nelson that my dad would be playing on the stereo.
But really, who cares about me? You are most likely wondering what a five-star restaurant in Napa Valley serves on Thanksgiving. Turns out, even though the customers are heathens—who, by going out to eat are disrespecting America’s greatest tradition—they still want turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes. And, honestly, that is all that I remember of the menu: brined turkeys oven-roasted like your mom makes, rich stock-based gravy and BLACK TRUFFLE mashed potatoes. Those potatoes made it all worth it. I would forsake Thanksgiving dinner at my family’s well-worn dining room table for a plate of black truffle potato nirvana any time!
The cream, butter and mellow earthiness of the mashed potatoes are a perfect vehicle for the distinct life-changing flavors of the freshly grated black truffles. Their pungent aroma, heady and transformative, wafts off the plate like an invitation to sweet dirty sex, which I guess would be better suited for a Valentine’s Day menu, but I guarantee, no one has ever complained.
BLACK TRUFFLE MASHED POTATOES
1 recipe of your most delicious classic mashed potatoes
black truffle (a little goes a long way, but don’t be stingy)
1. Your mashed potatoes should be made with lots and lots of butter and cream. Don’t skimp, it’s Thanksgiving and you have truffles in the fridge! I would make the smooth and fluffy variety, not the chunky rustic-style. Definitely “mash” the potatoes with a ricer. Mix them as little as possible- agitation makes them gummy. Season with kosher salt.
2. With a microplane (very fine grater), grate the truffle into the mashed potatoes. Use a heavy hand. I really do not think you can overdo it.
3. Serve the best mashed potatoes anyone has ever had in their lives and try to be humble.