Purè di Patate
In the throes of mourning after house guest’s 3 AM departure, we have decided to console ourselves the only way we know how: with meat.
As I’ve mentioned, house guest didn’t care for meat and oh, how we suffered. Let me rephrase: Francesco suffered enough for the both of us.
Fortunately, one of our favorite things about living in Australia is the amount of readily available, inexpensive, good quality meat. Big, beautiful, thick-cut, bone-in steak is no longer a luxury.
Another of our favorite things in Australia are our next door neighbors, who live so close we can hear them sneeze (though surprisingly we never hear this lil’ punkin). High fences make good neighbors, you say? Nonsense! Our fence has a hole big enough for the dog to fit through, and we like it that way. What we don’t like is that said neighbors have decided to move away to some Godforsaken place known as Wyoming (I kid you not), taking with them their laughter, friendship, Australian-English translation skills, spare car, and barbecue. WHAT WILL WE DO? We’ll just take advantage of as many of our favorite Australian things at one time as we can. There will even be a trifle.
We have had meat fests in the past with our neighbors: nights of so much blood and booze they would turn a normal person into someone vaguely resembling house guest. But we are not normal people. And so tonight we have planned a dinner in which four people will compete to see how much Kobe steak they can consume without becoming ill or passing out. Oh wait. That’s just Francesco…competing with himself. Now that I think of it, I can’t believe I’ve never alluded before to Francesco’s unbalanced love of steak. In day to day life, he’s a reasonable, practical, dare I say reserved, man. Unless, of course, there’s a still-bloody steak in front of him and a steak knife in his hand. No, scratch that. I’m sure he could get by without the knife.
So after all that, you’re probably thinking why on earth is this post about potatoes!? I want meat! It’s because, while I share – albeit to a much lesser degree – Francesco’s enthusiasm, he has not yet successfully persuaded me to forgo side dishes during meat fest. He thinks they’re a waste of precious stomach space. I think they’re my favorite part.
And one of my favorite side dishes in the whole world is the Italian take on mashed potatoes which call for – what else? – parmigiano. Instead of the chunky, starchy American version, these feel almost whipped, and are decidedly creamy and smooth. The perfect side to a perfect steak. A little bit of sanity in an otherwise terribly bloody night.
PURÈ DI PATATE (Italian Mashed Potatoes)
I measured what I used for four side dish servings, but I usually don’t measure, so you shouldn’t either! Just use mine as a guide, and taste as you go.
3 lbs (1 1/2 kg) baby potatoes (or similar shiny-skinned potato), peeled and quartered
2-4 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
2/3 to 1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese
some freshly grated pepper
a pinch of nutmeg (optional)
Boil peeled and quartered potatoes in a large pot of heavily salted water until they are very, very soft (practically bursting), which should take between 20 and 30 minutes. Drain them, return them to the pot and smash them. Using a hand held mixer or a wooden spoon to blend, add a few tablespoons of butter, and keep adding finely prated parmigiano and milk in installments until very smooth, dense and creamy. Add pepper and nutmeg, if desired.
N.B. You probably won’t need to add salt after salting the water and adding the parmigiano.
Meanwhile…this is what is sitting on my kitchen counter: