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Ultimate Garlic Mashed Potatoes Print E-mail
by Sandra Lewis    Tue, May 15, 2007, 08:32 pm
Having grown up with a mother who was a solid southern cook, there was nothing remotely French about the food on our family dining table except for the fries, usually presented with a steak masterfully grilled by my father.

Never venturing far from their Southern cuisine roots my parents rarely dined out, and if they did it was never French. Mexican, absolutely, French, no way.

As captain of my own personal cuisine expedition in adulthood, I dismissed French fare as expensive (anything French is expensive), form over function (beautiful presentation over fill me up), amazingly difficult (it must be), and mysterious (besides croissants, just exactly what was French food?).

Then I booked a trip to Paris so I sought to better understand this baffling cuisine.

I picked up a copy of Julia Child’s “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” just before my departure to the City of Lights this past March.

It’s as big as a family Bible and is considered a holy book in some cooking circles; certainly it’s a classic. I lugged all 3.2 lbs. of it with me on a recent business trip and pulled it out on the plane. The man sitting next to me asked if I was a chef.

Ah, ha! I wasn’t alone in my twisted thinking that only those with formal culinary training can reckon with French cuisine!

As I read, absorbed, and explored its 752 pages, that which I had once considered beyond reach of my simple, American kitchen skills seemed surprisingly doable and delectable.

With “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” as their guide, Ariel and Emily (below) took on the task of cooking dinner on a Saturday night a couple of weeks ago. It was the first run anyone had made at French cuisine in my kitchen.

There was a buzz of activity in the kitchen. And, oh, the aroma that wafted up the stairs that drew me down the stairs. My tastebuds danced in anticipation and were not disappointed when we gathered around the dining room table.

Flavorful, Flavorful. Flavorful. And delightful.

It was a steak and potatoes night French style – “Biftek Saute Bercy and Puree De Pommes De Terre a L’Ail” – simply translated - “Pan-broiled steak with Shallot and White Wine Sauce and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.” English peas flavored with rosemary rounded out the meal and made for a beautiful presentation.

It was like Julia’s words leaping to life from the pages of her book, “’Mastering the Art of French Cooking’” is just what the title says. It is how to produce really wonderful food – food that tastes good, looks good, and is a delight to eat.”

My standard for garlic mashed potatoes was ratcheted up several notches that evening; it’s going to have to be Julia’s way or no way in my kitchen.

No longer baffling or mysterious, my affection and respect for French cuisine began when the first crumbs of a crusty baguette fell to my plate in Paris. With Julia's help, I'm looking forward to a life long love affair.

Puree De Pommes De Terre A L’ail
(Garlic Mashed Potatoes)

2 heads garlic (about 30 cloves)
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup boiling milk
1/4 teaspoon Salt
pinch of pepper
2 1/2 lb. baking potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
3-4 tablespoons whipping cream
4 tablespoons minced parsley

Separate the garlic cloves. Drop into boiling water, and boil two minutes. Drain. Peel

Cook the garlic slowly with 4 tablespoon of butter for about 20 minutes or until very tender but not browned. Blend in the flour and stir over low heat until it froths with the butter for 2 minutes without browning. Off heat, beat in the boiling milk and 1/4 tablespoon salt and pinch of pepper. Boil, stirring, for one minute. Rub the sauce through a sieve or puree it in a blender. Simmer for 2 minutes more.

Peel and quarter the potatoes. Drop in boiling salted water to cover, and boil until tender. Drain immediately and put through a potato ricer. Place the hot puree in a saucepan and beat with a spatula or spoon for several minutes over moderate heat to evaporate moisture. As soon as the puree begins to form a film on the bottom of the pan, remove from the heat and beat in 4 tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time. Beat in salt and pepper to taste.

Shortly before serving, beat the hot garlic sauce vigorously into the hot potatoes. Beat in the cream by spoonfuls, but do not thin out the puree too much. Beat in the parsley. Correct the seasoning if needed.

Sandra’s Cooking Notes:
- I’ve taken some liberties with Julia’s recipe. The ingredient list is complete but I’ve pared down her instructions. Almost overwhelming at first read, she mixes excruciating details of the size and type of pots, pans, and cooking instruments along with the basic recipe instructions. But remember that her original audience was the 1961 American cook and you’ll love her for the attention to detail.
- This dinner is a fond memory. It was the last meal Emily (pictured below) prepared in my kitchen before she returned to Utah, her home state. After she finished her nursing degree at Baylor this spring, her family, and her first nursing job beckoned her home.

- Hannah and I had a lovely time in Paris. It is a beautiful city filled with never-ending wonder at each twist and turn of its lovely streets. If you’re interested in seeing our photos, click here for a video montage.

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