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Arts & Culture
Every Tuesday at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m., Tom Harte shares a few thoughts on food and shares recipes. A founder of “My Daddy’s Cheesecake,” a bakery/café in Cape Girardeau, a food columnist for The Southeast Missourian, and a cookbook author, he also blends his passion for food with his passion for classical music in his daily program, The Caffe Concerto.

A Harte Appetite: Mashed Potatoes

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Is there anybody who doesn’t like mashed potatoes?  For many Americans they are the one indispensable dish to serve on  holidays, like, say Thanksgiving, even though at the first Thanksgiving there were no mashed potatoes.  In fact, there were no potatoes at all.

Though a New World crop, the potato would have to travel first to Europe, thanks to the Spanish conquistadors, and then return to these shores before it could become a staple crop in this country, aided by the experiments of one of America’s most adventurous farmers, Thomas Jefferson, who was the first to introduce French fries to his countrymen.

The first recorded recipe for the dish is found in 1747 in a book by Hannah Glasse, the Julia Child of her day.  As influential as she  may have been, however, the person most responsible for the popularity of potatoes was a Frenchman named Antoine-Augustin Parmentier whose legacy lives on in the name of any number of French potato recipes, such as Potage Parmentier, potato and leek soup.

Parmentier was captured and imprisoned during the Seven Years’ War and kept on a ration of potatoes, a food considered only good for animal feed in France at the time.  He survived without ill effects and gratefully set about promoting the potato, relying partially on calculated publicity stunts.  The clever Monsieur Potato Head, for example, gifted the queen with bouquets of potato flowers.

He would approve, no doubt, of the late Chef Joel Robuchon’s recipe for mashed potatoes was responsible in no small part for his thirty-one Michelin stars.  Its main ingredient besides potatoes is a little butter.  Actually, a lot of butter. Robuchon’s prescription calls for a whole pound of butter for two pounds of potatoes.  With a ratio like that, this spud’s for you.

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Ultimate Mashed Potatoes

Adapted from Joel Robuchon, this recipe is one you’ll be thankful to have at your holiday meal or any time of year.

2 pounds Yukon Gold, yellow fingerlings, or German Butterball potatoes
1 pound butter
¼ cup warm cream
Salt to taste

Cover unpeeled potatoes with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 35-40 minutes until tender.  Drain, peel, and let cool briefly.  Mash potatoes, return to pot, and heat over medium heat until steam comes off bottom of pot.  Add butter five or so tablespoons at a time, incorporating each addition almost fully before adding the next.  Stir in cream until incorporated, season with salt, and stir potatoes rapidly until fluffy.

 

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