Last weekend, as Maxence was walking up the rue Lepic, he was lured into one of the many inviting charcuteries (a charcuterie is a store halfway between a butcher’s shop and a deli). The boudin antillais was tempting, so he bought four small ones. Boudin antillais (a twist on boudin noir) is a specialty from the Antilles, the French Carribeans. They are blood sausages, made with bread, peppers, milk, onions, rum, various spices and, well, pork blood.
It took me a while to try blood sausages. In fact, I tried my first only two years ago, in the form of crunchy ravioli filled with blood sausage, pinenuts and apple, a signature appetizer at the excellent restaurant Les Dolomites, in the 17th arrondissement. If you can get over the main ingredient of boudin, the reward is the unique taste.
So boudins antillais went on the menu for lunch on Sunday. Maxence said we needed purée (mashed potatoes) with this. As incredible as it may sound, I had never prepared homemade mashed potatoes before. From dried potato flakes, yes, but from scratch, no. Having just read “The Man Who Ate Everything” by Jeffrey Steingarten, in which he devotes a whole essay to his quest for the perfect mashed potatoes, I thought myself well-armed to tackle the task.
We walked down to the rue des Martyrs to buy some bintje potatoes, the variety French purée recipes recommend. Back home, I opened the book to Jeffrey’s recipe, but thought he made it sound much more daunting than it should be (the double-cooking, the exact water temp, sheesh!), so I decided to be my ingenuous self and just follow my instincts, following the process outlined below.
About 5 minutes before the potatoes were ready, Maxence heated up a skillet, and sauteed the boudins on low heat. The trick is to avoid submitting them to violent heat — this would cause the skin to burst — but still heat them enough to create a slight crust.
The boudin sausages were scrumptious: crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside, with this very peculiar paste-like melting texture, sweet and wonderfully spiced, infused with complex hints of cumin, ginger and a host of other savors we couldn’t quite pin down. The mound of fluffy purée was the perfect accompaniment, providing a stable flavor ground to recuperate on, making the next bite of boudin a new burst of flavor. This delicious meal left us stuffed and happy, ready for a welcome cup of coffee.
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- 800 grams (1 3/4 pounds) starchy potatoes (such as Russet or Bintje)
- 80 ml (1/3 cup) milk, hot
- 55 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Peel the potatoes.
- Cut them into 1,5-cm (1/2-inch) slices, set in a colander, and rinse under cold water to wash off the starch that has leaked from the cells ruptured while slicing.
- Put the slices in a medium saucepan, pour in cold water to cover, and add the coarse salt. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat, and cook uncovered, water simmering, for 20 minutes, until tender when tested with the tip of a knife.
- When the potatoes are cooked through, save about 240 ml (1 cup) of the cooking liquid in a bowl. Drain the potatoes and return to the pan.
- Add in the milk, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper, and mash using a fork or potato masher.
- Add as much of the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to get a creamy consistency. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately.
You can prepare the mashed potatoes a few hours ahead, or even the day before. Reserve more of the cooking liquid, and save it. Reheat the mashed potatoes over gentle heat, adding the reserved cooking liquid to loosen it up.