A slew of French dishes go by the moniker ‘à la duchesse,’ (‘like the duchess’), and all of them are presented as a central dish surrounded by piped, browned potato, either as borders or as groups of rosettes.
All of these dishes use a mixture known as ‘pomme de terre duchesse,’ which combines finely riced potatoes mixed with butter and eggs. However, the origin of this preparation is not known. Some say that it is named after an English duchess, but the identity of the noble lady is not known.
Duchess potatoes are a great thing to serve for friends because they can be done in advance and reheated. But, there are some tips to consider:
- The butter needs to be added when the potatoes are hot.
- The eggs need to be added when the potato is warm, but not hot enough to scramble the eggs.
- Piping is best done warm and traditionally uses a closed rosette.
- The egg brushing is delicate. Adding salt to the egg helps the eggs flow better, and you are definitely better off brushing cold duchesses to avoid deforming them.
Pommes de terre duchesse
- 500g floury potatoes, peeled and halved
- 50g butter
- 1 egg and 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg, lightly salted and beaten for glazing
- Ground rock salt and freshly ground white pepper
- A grating of nutmeg
Set an oven to 200˚C and grease a baking sheet with butter.
Place the potatoes in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes until done.
Drain the potatoes and allow them to disperse their steam a bit.
Put the potatoes in a sieve and force them through the sieve into a pan using the back of a spoon. Put the potatoes on a gentle heat and cook them a bit more to ensure that most of the water is evaporated. They will stiffen a bit once the water is out. Season and add a dash of nutmeg.
Still on the gentle heat, combine the butter with the potatoes. Take off the heat and add the eggs, mixing thoroughly.
While the mixture is still warm, put it in a piping bag with a closed star nozzle, and pipe swirls onto the baking sheet. Allow to cool a bit, and then very gently brush the swirls with the salted, beaten egg. The salt helps break the egg down to make it flow easier.
Brown the potatoes in the oven for 15–20 mins until golden.