Pommes duchesse is not something you’ll find on the menu at many Paris restaurants anymore. That is a shame, because while this dish of puréed potato mixed with egg, then piped and baked to a golden crisp, may seem old fashioned, it is a delight.
Fortunately, it is not at all difficult to make at home. It’s versatile, too. Tiny kisses, piped with a star tip for a fancy touch, would make a great passed hors d’oeuvre at a cocktail party. Little puffs, simply spooned onto a baking sheet, are a fun alternative to french fries. Or you could go all out and pipe whimsical, decorative borders on dinner plates—it’s garnish and side dish all in one.
This is a classic pommes duchesse recipe, but the possibilities for flavor variations are multitudinous. Stir in some chopped fresh herbs or grated cheese. Add carrots, turnips, celeriac or other root vegetables to the mix (just keep it to about a quarter of the total amount). Sharp mustard or chili peppers would be good additions, too. It may not be exactly what they served in Paris restaurants of yore, but it will be yours.
Serves 4–6 as a side, more as an hors d’oeuvre.
2 pounds 10 ounces (1,200 grams) starchy potatoes, such as russet or bintje
3–4 cloves garlic, peeled
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks or 150 grams) unsalted butter
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1. Peel the potatoes and cut into rough 1-inch (2-centimeter) pieces. Bring to a boil in a pot of well-salted water with the garlic cloves. Simmer until everything is very tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 420 degrees F (215 degrees C).
2. Drain the potatoes and garlic and return to the pot over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. The goal is to help the water evaporate and dry out the potatoes a bit before mashing them.
3. Add the butter to the pot and mash it with the potatoes to form a smooth purée. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow it to cool a bit (you still want it warm, just not hot enough to scramble the eggs), then stir in the eggs.
4. Scoop or pipe the mixture onto parchment-lined baking sheets or ovenproof plates. Bake until golden brown, 10–15 minutes. Serve hot.
Camille Malmquist is an American pastry chef living and working in Paris. In her spare time, she cooks and bakes at home (believe it or not), as well as tackles the difficult task of trying out as many restaurants and bakeries as possible, then she blogs about her food and travel adventures at Croque-Camille.