Chatelaillon-Plage (Charente-Maritime)-Poitiers (Vienne), 09/09/2020

During the Tour de France, combining two of my passions, biking and cooking, I will try to present (almost) every day a recipe from the route followed by the peloton.

The Tour de France arrived yesterday in Poitiers, a massive and hectic sprint won by the Australian Caleb Ewan, with the declassification of the Slovakian Peter Sagan for a quarterback move!

Poitiers is this type of French anonymous cities: except for those born or living in the area, people know its name, know that it was the theatre of a famous battle… in 732, in the best case scenario  know where it is located, but rarely know much more about this city. In fact, Poitiers is a go-through city. Located on the Seuil du Poitou referring to a low altitude area constituting a gap between the ancient mountain ranges Massif Armoricain (Northwest) and the Massif Central and the meeting point between the important Paris (Northeast) and Aquitaine (Southwest) sedimentary basins. Because of this strategic position, Poitiers was an important military place -hence the famous abovementioned battle where the Frankish army of Charles Martel defeated the Umayyad forces about to invade Gaul- and a no less important political place, since it was the residence of the Dukes of Aquitaine, including the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, successively spouse of the King of France and of the King of England, bringing by the same token the duchy to the English crown! Less strategical, I may have passed through (before the highway was built) or by the city hundreds of times since I was a kid on my trips to the Southwest of France without stopping in the city…

In fact, and although the city features some very interesting historical sites, it is most known for the very successful technological theme park (2 million visitors/year) built in the 80’s 10 miles in the North of Poitiers, the Futuroscope!

Instead of the Tourteau Fromagé, one of the region’s culinary specialty… that I have been unable to perfect so far, I would like to pay a tribute to a très grand chef born in the city and deceased 2 years ago, Joël Robuchon, and to his iconic purée de pomme de terre, the one that a lot of his clients used to order a second time in lieu of a dessert! Just this tells a lot!!!

I had the chance and the great honor to know and to meet Joël Robuchon, first as a client of his Poincaré restaurant in Paris, where I tasted for the first time the famous purée, and much later, when he was the guest of honor and a partner of my Gourmet Media festival in 2004. We shared then several meals together, in his restaurants and during my Festival, and I was able to know a bit more the man behind the chef. You see, generally speaking, grands chefs’ signature dishes are generally “bling-bling” and/or flamboyant dishes, featuring luxurious ingredients: Paul Bocuse’s poularde en demi-deuil studded with truffles, Gordon Ramsay’s beef Wellington and other dishes involving caviar, lobster… Could you imagine that Joël’s signature dish is a simple as mashed potatoes, an everyday staple dish!!! I know, you will answer me that, of course, there are truffles, foie gras or other fancy stuff into it? NO, NOT A SINGLE OUNCE OF FANCY, EXPENSIVE, EXOTIC AND/OR RARE INGREDIENT AT ALL. Just potatoes (OK, I admit it, really good potatoes), (a "little bit" of) butter and milk (added progressively). And no sophisticated equipment either, just a simple potato mill similar to the one that your grandmother probably had and a manual whisk.

In fact, his purée totally represented his personality, a mix of extreme simplicity and perfectionism.  He was also very keen to transmit to others, and to learn from others: during my festival, he discussed and spent time with all the exhibitors, from France and from all over the word, to get to know them and to understand their products. Always fishing for new ideas. Was this the consequence of his first religious vocation?

His recipe can be made at home. Honestly, I was figuring out that his secret was the quantity of butter, finally almost reasonable, or the addition of crème fraîche, but there is none at all. His purée has been copied, including by other “grands” chefs. And those grands chefs thought that, because they would put a lot of butter, much more than the ratio potato/butter of 4:1, they would replicate Robuchon’s purée. I even saw a 2-star chef recommending a ratio of 1:1. Ridiculous! Robuchon had no problem to give us the secret of his purée: a 8-buck fine mesh sieve that he used to “force through” the mashed potatoes.

Here is his recipe, or exactly my humble attempt to replicate it: 

Levels of difficulty










Ingredients 4 servings

§  1 kg of fingerling potatoes of similar size

§  250 g of salted butter

§  20/30 cl of whole milk

§  S&P


§  Cook the potatoes (of a similar caliber,  or otherwise, it is required to adjust the cooking time according to the different sizes) in salted water, with their skin (so that they are not “waterish”), till you could easily studd a knife into them.

§  Then, peeled them when they are still hot (sorry for your sensitive fingers)

§  Rice them through a classical mechanical potato mill.

§  Put to boiling around 30 cl of (raw if possible) whole milk. Little tip: fill up first the pan with water and empty it. The remaining film of water will avoid that the milk sticks at the bottom.

§  While the milk is heating, put the potatoes in another pan, on low temperature and add progressively pieces of cold salted butter (altogether, around 25% of the potato weight) while stirring vigorously.

§  When you start to get an unctuous texture, add progressively small ladles of hot whole milk, stirring with a wooden spoon, then whipping with a whip as soon as the texture allowed it, vigorously and during at least a couple of minutes. That’s the physical part of the recipe… just to eliminate in advance all the butter you are going to absorb!!!

§  Then, the crucial moment, further straining the purée that was already looking more than nice, in the tamis sieve, using a bowl scraper and/or a spatula to force it through the mesh.

§  You obtain an unctuous purée that you will warm up again, adding, if need be, a little bit of milk to obtain the targeted texture.



Joël Robuchon receiving his prize at my Gourmet Voice festival