Every cook has their nemesis. The one food that despite how hard they try, they just can’t get right. Despite my love of smooth and creamy mashed potatoes, every time I tried to make them at home, they were lumpy and bland. I tried peeling, not peeling, boiling whole and boiling in chunks. I tried mixing in cheese, cream, sour cream, butter, and stock.
One thing I never tried though, was a food mill. A food mill is generally used to separate a tough part of a food from a tender part. for example, separating out the cranberry skins from the pulpy insides. Since the entire potato is edible, I never thought about using one to make mashed potatoes – or rather, pureed potatoes.
Recently, we’ve spent a couple of lovely evenings at Ventana. Ventana is a new Belltown restaurant headed up by Chef Joseph Conrad, formerly of Qube and half of Secret Stash Salt. When we checked out Ventana during their soft open, one of my favorite dishes was the New York Strip with Cheddar Potatoes. The steak was lovely, of course. Perfectly cooked, flavorful, and just the right size. However the potatoes were out of this world. They were rich, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I’ve been thinking about those potatoes for weeks now. So when I started working on Thanksgiving recipes, I knew these were the potatoes I wanted to serve. Since I had no idea how to make them, I went right to the source and asked Chef Joseph himself. Lucky for me (and you) he was willing to share.
Before we get to the recipe though, a few more words on Ventana. We’ve had two excellent meals there. The ribs rival our very favorite ribs ever at Rutherford Grill in my hometown of Napa. The truffle fries are crispy with just the right amount of Truffle Salt. Ask the bartender to make you a Margarita with a Kick. They are open until 2am (the kitchen closes at midnight).
Ventana’s Cheddar Potatoes
- 3 lbs. medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
- 3 oz room temperature butter
- 1-1.5 cups heavy cream
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
- Make sure the potatoes are generally the same size. If not, cut the larger ones.
- Place the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer (NOT TO A BOIL).
- Cook the potatoes at a simmer until you can insert a knife into the center of the potatoes with only a bit of resistance.
- Drain the potatoes and put them through a food mill while still hot.
- In a separate saucepan, heat the cream just below a simmer.
- Mix the room temperature butter in with the still warm potatoes.
- Add the shredded cheese and stir to combine.
- Pour in the hot cream, a little at a time, stirring well, until the potatoes reach the desired consistency.
- Season with salt and pepper (or Secret Stash Salt) and serve.
Notes: There are a few things to take away from this recipe. First, don’t boil the potatoes. This was news to me as I’ve always boiled my potatoes. The second revelation was to add hot cream instead of room temperature cream. It makes perfect sense to me. Hot cream mixes better, keeps the temperature of the potatoes up, and helps melt any remaining cheese. The other tip that Chef Joseph gave me was that if you overcook the potatoes, they will absorb a lot of water and this will ruin the texture of your potatoes. I’m sure we’ve all left potatoes to boil just a tad bit too long. After all, they’re potatoes. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, the worst that could happen is that the potatoes will be too moist, runny, and grainy.
These potatoes were a fair bit of work. If I had the food mill attachment for my KitchenAid, I’m sure I’d be more willing to put the effort into these potatoes. But SWEET POTATO BALLS! (my new favorite exclamation of joy) these potatoes were amazing. We used Smoked Flagship from Beechers and the flavor of the potatoes was superb. You can make these potatoes just about any consistency. For the amount of cream in the recipe, the potatoes are a bit like the texture of cream of wheat. Next time, I’ll add just a little less cream. I’ll make these again, but be warned that they take a bit of work, so I wouldn’t recommend making them ON Thanksgiving Day. Luckily, I made these potatoes last night and reheated them in the oven today for lunch and they were every bit as good. So if you’re looking for absolutely amazing potatoes for Thanksgiving, give these a try and make them the day before.
If you’re not sure that mashed potatoes are worth the time spent with the food mill, then head down to Ventana and get the New York Strip Steak. You’ll get a beautiful pile of these potatoes with little to no effort at all.
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