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Rice or mill potatoes for crispy puffs

A potato ricer or food mill is a gadget I can get behind.

It’s essential for achieving not only the pillowy gnocchi featured with my latest food section column but fluffy mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and other occasions. In my kitchen, a food mill does double duty, producing purees of all types for which a ricer wouldn’t be adequate.

The hand-cranked item is inexpensive and doesn’t take up a lot of space, unlike a food processor, making it a likely holiday gift for beginning cooks who want to elevate their repertoires. And in case it hasn’t been communicated enough, running potatoes through a mixer or food processor makes them gluey.

From mashed potatoes, it takes just a couple more steps to make these addictively crispy, puffs that are almost like potato doughnut holes. I’d boil a couple extra potatoes and set them aside from the holiday meal, then dip these puffs in leftover gravy or cranberry sauce.

Tribune News Service photo

Potato Puffs

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, about 6 ounces each, washed

Salt, as needed

1/2 cup milk

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

About 3 cups canola oil, for deep frying

Put the potatoes in a pot with cold water to cover, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 40 minutes, until very tender; be sure potatoes are always covered with water during cooking. Drain potatoes.

When they are cool enough to handle, peel potatoes, cut into chunks and push through a food mill or ricer.

In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt, the pepper and butter; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour all at once, working mixture with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball. Return to stove and cook for 30 seconds over low heat, stirring mixture, which will become a shiny, homogenous mass. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add the eggs to dough one at a time, beating well with a whisk after each addition, then stir in potatoes. (Alternatively put dough in a food processor and, with motor running, add eggs; process for 15 to 20 seconds, then combine in a bowl with mashed potatoes).

Preheat oven to 160 F.

Heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil in a deep 10- to 12-inch skillet to 350 F. Spoon 1 tablespoon of dough at a time into oil, pushing it out of spoon with your finger; cook 10 to 15 pieces at a time. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning puffs in oil to brown them evenly on all sides.

As soon as first batch is done, remove with a slotted spoon to a tray lined with paper towels. Keep hot in oven while you cook remaining puffs. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve. Puffs will lose their crispness if they sit too long.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Recipe from “Essential Pepin” by Jacques Pepin