How To Batonnet
The first technique that we will discuss is the batonnet. The batonnet will be the basis for your dice, brunoise, and julienne. A batonnet is nothing more than a fancy French word for baton or stick. The technical measurement is ¼” by ¼” by 2.5-3” long. No matter what you batonnet, you always start with the same first step. Start by cutting off both ends of the object you wish to batonnet (Topping and Tailing).
Next, square off the sides of the object so that you form a rectangle.
Take your rectangular object and cut it into ¼” slabs.
Stack the ¼” slabs and cut them into ¼” strips. If you want a true batonnet, cut the final length to 2.5-3” long.
How To Julienne
Here’s a little secret for you, you already know how to julienne. A julienne is nothing more than a smaller version of the batonnet which you already learned above.
The technical measurements for julienne are:
- Regular Julienne = 1/8” by 1/8” by 2 ½” long
- Fine Julienne = 1/16” by 1/16” by 2” long
How To Dice
Now that you know how to batonnet, the dice will come easy. Simply take the batonnet that you just cut, and cross-cut it horizontally into equal sided cubes. For example, if you were to take a true batonnet (1/4” by ¼” by 2.5-3” long), and cross-cut it into quarter-inch cubes, you would have a small dice.
Here are the technical measurements for dice:
- Large dice = ¾” cubed
- Medium dice = ½” cubed
- Small dice = ¼” cubed
- Brunoise = 1/8” cubed
- Fine Brunoise = 1/16” cubed
See how that brunoise just snuck in there? Technically, brunoise is nothing more than a very small dice. Chefs just like to call it brunoise because we love adjectives and nouns that make things seem more complex than they really are.
|This post is part of our ongoing Culinary Knife Skills Video Series, which teaches you a wide array of knife skills used in professional kitchens. For more information, you can also view our How To Cook Video Index.|
Mashed potatoes are classic comfort food 101. To the untrained eye they can appear deceivingly simple, but the best mashed potatoes require proper technique, a decent fat to potato ratio, and being aware of common snares that trip up the uninitiated along the way. By the time you're done watching the above video and reading through this article, you'll be able to whip up a great batch of mashed potatoes every time, whether you're creating a simple Sunday Super, or bringing the thunder on Thanksgiving.
Step 1: Let's Talk Potatoes
Although various types are available at your local supermarket year 'round, potatoes are split into two distinct categories; "waxy" and "mealy."
Waxy potatoes have a cellular structure which causes them to adhere to one another during cooking, resulting in a solid, dense, yet moist, texture. Common waxy varieties include new potatoes, and thin skinned potatoes such as white and red. Because waxy potatoes are made up of starches that adhere to one another when cooked, they make a great choice for salads, gratins, or potato cakes, but are undesirable for mashed potatoes.
Instead, use a "mealy" potato variety, with a cellular structure that dries out, bursts, and separates itself from it's neighbor when fully cooked. The fine, dry, and fluffy texture, makes these potatoes excellent at absorbing fat, and reduce gumminess. The most common variety of mealy potato is the russet, which makes great mashed potatoes and is available year 'round.
Step 2: Peel and Rinse
Once the potatoes are peeled, cut into quarters lengthwise, and cross cut into even chunks. Place in a pot, and rinse under cold, running water, pouring off and rinsing again, until the water run clears. This will remove excess starch from the surface of the potatoes which could possibly cause your mashers to become gluey later on.
Step 3: The Cold Water Start & Simmer
Potatoes are a root vegetable, and like we discussed in SCS Episode 4| Blanching, when cooking root vegetables in water, you should always start cold, bringing the water and vegetables up to a simmer together. This is because root vegetables are fairly dense, and the cold water will allow them to cook through more evenly.
Once you've rinsed all the starch off the surface of the potatoes, cover with cold water, bring to a boil over high flame, and reduce to a simmer until fork tender. Do not undercook, lest your finished product be annoyingly grainy with chunks of potatoes dispersed throughout. However, the whole point of simmering is to separate the potato's cellular structure so you can coat it with fat. If you over cook the potatoes past fork tender, the cells will rupture instead of separate, releasing excess starch, making your mashed potatoes gummy.
The moral of the story? Keep an eye on your potatoes; cook until tender, but overcooking is just as bad as not cooking long enough.
Once the potatoes are simmered to fork tender, drain well in a colander, and you're ready to move on to mashing.
Stage 4: Mastering The Mash
There are three basic approaches to mashing potatoes; a food mill, potato ricer, and a hand masher. The first two will give you a smooth, creamy texture, while the third will leave your potatoes chunky.
"But Jacob, what about using a fork?"
Just say no. I don't care what Alton McGyver Brown says about "unitaskers," a crude forking is no way to make mashed potatoes. If you're looking for other options, the paddle attachment on a stand mixer or a quick blitz with butter and cream in a food processor will get the job done, if not risking a gummy texture from overworking. But for the best, creamy mashed potatoes, a food mill or potato ricer is required.
To make creamy mashed potatoes, simply pass your well drained, fork tender potatoes through a food mill (as demonstrated in the above video), or a lever action potato ricer before adding any fat or liquid.
Step 5: Don't Be A Fat-A-Phobe
Look, I need to level with you. The number one reason why mashed potatoes suck is because they don't contain enough fat. If you're on a diet, watching your fat intake, or counting calories, I can respect that. But subjecting your family and friends to dry, starchy, soulless mashed potatoes is just cruel. Some foods are better not eaten at all if it's necessary to completely crush it's soul in the name of "healthy eating;" mashed potatoes should be at the top of this list.
For every 1 pound of raw, peeled potatoes, you'll need a minimum of 3 ounces of butter and 1 ounce of cream. For easy scaling using the baker's percentage, set your raw, peeled potatoes at 100%, add 19% Butter and 6.5% heavy cream . Remember, this is just a minimum. You can easily add more fat, which will yield looser potatoes with more richness, but leave the cream where it's at and just up the butter. The reason for this is simple: "Mo' Butter, Mo' Better,"
The easiest way to incorporate the butter and cream is to simply heat together in a small pot or pan, and gently fold into the riced or milled potatoes. If going the "smashing route," add the fat and cream while mashing, which will help to moisten the potatoes and keep them from becoming overworked.
Step 6: Season Well
Beside choosing the wrong variety of potato and not using enough fat, one of the most common mashed potato pitfalls is under seasoning. Remember, fat coats the palate, which will deaden flavors, meaning more salt is required for your mashed potatoes to be properly seasoned. If you want to get technical about it, you'll need at least 1-2% salt based on the potatoes weight.
As a side note, I used to not be a big fan of white pepper (I was tortured with it by a few French Chefs at culinary school), but I find its funky, almost barn yard aroma to add a nice flavor to mashed potatoes. Use it, add black pepper, or no pepper at all; it's completely up to you. Remember, salt is a seasoning, it will actually enhance the flavor of your food, while pepper is a flavor, meaning it's a personal preference and purely optional.
While we're on the subject of seasoning, acid is a great way to brighten heavy flavors and cut through fat. You may want to consider just a few drops of a light vinegar (such as champagne) mixed into you mashed potatoes, right before serving.
Creamy mashed potatoes are one of the best base vehicles for delivering other flavors. Almost anything can be folded into mashed potatoes to take them from good to great, but some options off the top of my head include fresh herbs, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, sour cream, roasted shallots, and of course, bacon! Just add them to taste, fold in, and serve.
Keeping Mashed Potatoes Warm Before Serving
One of the great things about mashed potatoes is they're easy to keep warm for at least 1-2 hours, meaning you can make them a little ahead of time and then focus on the other components in your meal. In the video, I simply nestle a smaller pot holding the finished mashed potatoes into a slightly larger pot with simmering liquid. Place a lid on stop, move to the back of the stove, and reserve over a low flame until you're ready to serve.
A crock pot set on low will also work great for this application.
Too Long Didn't Read: Mashed Potato Formula - Based On The Baker's Percentage
100% Peeled Russet Potatoes
19% Butter, Melted (but who are we kidding, you may as well round it to 20%)
6.5% Heavy Cream, Heated With Butter
5% Raw Garlic Cloves, Roasted (Optional)
Pepper & Additional Flavors To Taste
SCS 5| Basic Starches - Audio podcast that discusses how to make basic starches including mashed potatoes, polenta, and risotto.
Braised Beef Short Ribs - The perfect meat to accompany roasted garlic mashed potatoes.
This video will take you through the process that we use to sous vide a rack of lamb at Stella. The nice thing about this process is we cook the lamb rack a second time in a reduced pan sauce which infuses both the lamb and the sauce with an amazing flavor.
Supporting Video Techniques
This post is part of our ongoing Completed Dish Video Series, which shows you how to combine multiple techniques into a restaurant quality dish. For more information, you can also view our How To Cook Video Index.
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In this episode of the Stella Culinary School Podcast, we talk about three major starches that every cook must know and understand; polenta, risotto and mashed potatoes. In the discussion segment we go over the meaning of an entrée, appetizer and hors d'oeuvre.
Links For This Episode
Bell Pepper Pommes Puree - Recipe
For our complete list of audio lectures you can view The Stella Culinary School Podcast Index. For a list of video techniques, please visit our How To Cook Video Index. You can also subscribe to the Stella Culinary School Podcast feed through traditional RSS or iTunes.
Mashed potatoes are something that we all know and love. They make a great side dish to accompany your favorite meat entrée, and are so versatile that you can serve them with almost anything. Although most people understand the underlying principles of how to make mashed potatoes, there are some techniques and secrets that restaurant chefs employ to ensure that their mashed potatoes are better than the ones you make on “turkey day”.
Mashed Potato Procedure
Peel whole russet potatoes and cut into manageable chunks. I’ll usually cut my potatoes into quarters lengthwise, and then cross cut them into pieces roughly measuring about 2.5 inches.
Place your potato chunks in an appropriately sized pot, add a couple large pinches of salt and cover with cold water. Starting your potatoes in cold water will allow the complex starches to cook more evenly.
Place the pot on your stove top, turn to high heat, and bring to a boil.
Once the water begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until fork- tender.
When the potatoes are fork-tender, strain them off and make sure that all the water is allowed to drain out.
From this point, most home cooks would simply mash with a hand masher, add butter, salt, pepper, and possibly a touch of cream. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this method, but if you want your mashed potatoes to truly be the best that your dinner guests have ever put into their mouths, then keep reading.
Secrets to Making Great Mashed Potatoes
So what are the secrets that restaurant chefs use to make great mashed potatoes? Here they are, in no particular order:
Use a food mill. Passing your mashed potatoes through a food mill will give them a wonderful silky smooth texture. Do this first, before you add your butter and cream. If you like your mashed potatoes chunky - fine, then don’t mill them. However, silky mashed potatoes are much harder to come by in the home, and honestly, they just taste better.
Add enough butter to give your cardiologist a heart attack. The number one reason why mashed potatoes made by a restaurant chef will always taste better than yours is because they mix in an enormous amount of butter. A good place to start is about 1-2 ounces of butter for every large russet potato used.
Use European-style butter. Most fine dining chefs use European-style butter because it has a higher fat content. One brand that is commercially available to the home cook is Land O’ Lakes. It should say something like “European Butter” on the box. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, fat is KING.)
The creaminess from your mashed potatoes should come from the melted butter, not the cream. Add your butter first until the mashed potatoes reach their desired consistency, and then add a touch of cream for added body and texture.
Some chefs believe that melting the cream and butter together before adding them to the mashed potatoes allows the fat to coat the starch granules of the potatoes more evenly, giving it a better texture.
Season your potatoes well with plenty of kosher salt. The number one mistake that most home cooks always make is that they under season their food. If you made your mashed potatoes properly, they should contain an enormous amount of fat, which will coat the palate. To counteract this, a little extra sal