Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

With the influx of “fusion” cuisine during the past decade, or more likely almost two decades, it’s amazing to experience the robust and unique flavors that many talented chefs have incorporated into certain foods that were once only a standard side dish at the dinner table.  I know, we’re getting tired of the term “fusion,” but let’s look at the simple side dish of mashed potatoes, which are now available in a variety of flavors.  Who would have thought that an effortless combination of potatoes, milk and butter would turn into a worldly cuisine incorporating ingredients such as ginger, jalapeno, eggplant, spinach or chocolate (well maybe not…or maybe so)?  The list is endless as to what could be added to this “simple” side dish that was once only “dressed” with gravy, typically from a can, nonetheless.  Remember that?  Anyway, after eating basic mashed potatoes (sans gravy) for many years growing up as a child, today, one of my favorite “flavored” mashed potatoes is made with wasabi root.  I can’t even count the number of restaurants that started serving this alternative exotic-sounding starch on their menus after the Nobu invasion in the late 1990’s. It is very good.  If done well.
The potatoes should be made with the real wasabi root, however.  NOT the powder, which could cause the potatoes to have a “plastic, artificial taste.”  If real wasabi root is unavailable, then the paste would suffice (sort of).  Again, stay AWAY from powered wasabi.  Here goes…

Wasabi Mashed Potatoes:
2 pounds baking potatoes (russets), peeled and cut into 2 inch dice
½  cup milk – warmed
4 ounces butter, cut into pieces
About 1 ½ - 2 tablespoons freshly grated wasabi root (alternatively use about 1 tablespoon of wasabi paste; don’t use powder)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the potatoes in salted, boiling water until done. Pass through a food mill or ricer. Whisk in warmed milk and butter.  Stir in freshly grated wasabi root (or wasabi paste). Stir until well incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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