Ina Garten's How Easy Is That? is full of recipes that combine simple techniques with elegant touches, takes on dishes that you might already be familiar with that are tweaked to make them just a bit more, well, classy.
This recipe for Potato Basil Purée is a great example. By swapping out Yukon Golds for plain old Russets, and adding vibrant green blanched basil, basic mashed potatoes are taken from humble and homey to exciting and dinner party-worthy. Blanching the basil and plunging it into an ice water bath preserves its color, freshness, and flavor; it adds a brightness to the fluffy mash. This recipe feels light since it uses half and half instead of butter and cream.
Steaming the potatoes for a few seconds after you've drained them gets rid of any leftover moisture, giving them an airy texture. Kudos to the Barefoot Contessa on the seasoning; the ratio of salty Parmesan to salt to pepper is spot-on. No adjustments needed (which is a first for me).
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of How Easy Is That? to give away this week.
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
- 2 pounds large Yukon Gold or white boiling potatoes
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Add the basil leaves to the boiling water and cook for exactly 15 seconds. Remove the basil with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge the leaves into the ice water to set the bright green color. Drain and set aside.
Peel the potatoes and cut them in quarters. Add the potatoes to the same pot of boiling water and return to a boil. Cook the potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until very tender. Drain well, return to the saucepan, and steam over low heat until any remaining water evaporates.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the half-and-half and Parmesan cheese until the cream simmers. Place the basil in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree. Add the hot cream mixture and process until smooth.
With a handheld mixer with the beater attachment, beat the hot potatoes in the pot until they are broken up. Slowly add the hot basil cream, the salt, and pepper and beat until smooth. If the potatoes need to be reheated, cover and cook gently over low heat for a few minutes. Pour into a serving bowl, sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese, season to taste, and serve hot.