Crossing the Great Side-Order Divide: Puffed Potatoes

Forget Arab versus Israeli or Catholic versus Protestant. Really, is there any more vexed question than whether French fries (or chips) are superior to mashed potatoes (or pommes purees if you want to get really fancy about it)?

On the one hand, adherents of the fried potato, in all its many iterations from the shoestring to the big fat wedge maintain that only a spud that has been par-boiled, fried, and then fried again for extra crispness has the right to sit alongside a burger or, better yet, a big ol’ ribeye.

On the other hand, the mashed potato brigade is convinced that, boiled and sieved and emulsified with the equivalent of Normandy’s weekly production of butter and cream is the most ennobling treatment for the humble pomme de terre.

Friends, this site may not be able to solve the more intractable problems of faith or geopolitics, but as a consolation prize, how about some gastronomic syncretism in the form of puffed potatoes? In one of those great “where have you been all my life?” moments, the Prick first noticed the idea in his Christmas copy of the Gramercy Tavern Cookbook (a wonderful volume worth the price of admission for the smoked tomato soup alone).

Then, a lunch at the Rockpool where a similar little side dish stole the show.

So how’s it done? Easy. First, get some potatoes peeled and chunked and on to boil – desirees, Yukon golds, anything waxy you have to hand, about a half-kilo’s worth (this recipe made more than enough for two, but is pretty infinitely scalable).

While that’s happening, make a simple choux pastry: Boil a big tablespoon of butter and a quarter-cup of water, and then take off the heat, stirring in a quarter-cup’s worth of flour. Return to a lower heat, and stir constantly until it forms a dough and pulls away from the sides. This won’t take long at all.

Throw this dough in a stand mixer and, with the paddle attachment, beat the dough with an egg; in a minute or so it’ll come back together.

When your potatoes are tender, run them through a potato ricer and toss into the mixer, and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

When ready to cook, form quenelles or balls or any damn shape you like and fry for a few minutes, until golden all over, at around 170 degrees C (or 325 degrees or so F). Remember, your oil temperature will drop when you add the potatoes, so get it up a good five or ten degrees above your target to start with.

Drain, salt, and serve with the best damn steak you can acquire.


Yeah, I know it’s messy, but I was too damn hungry to wipe the plate.

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8 Responses to Crossing the Great Side-Order Divide: Puffed Potatoes

  1. Bronwen says:


  2. Alana says:

    You’re the king of kings in the kitchen.

  3. TimT says:

    Nice piccy! Mess is what food is all about though innit.

    I waver between potatoes (mashed) and potatoes (chipped). On the one hand, by cutting ’em up you can get so much more salt – delicious, tangy, wonderful salt – per potato. On the other hand, there are just so many dishes that have to have the mash to bring them to perfection. Bangers and mash with chips instead of mash would be heresy.

    As an aside, I once ordered a parma at the Clyde Hotel in Carlton and they came back with the chicken schnitzel seated, not as customary, on a delicious salty bed of chips, but on some very awkward looking tubes of spiral pasta. (Thankfully I defused the situation by telling the pasta not to worry, and ate it all up.)

  4. Dr Duck says:

    Classic Pommes Dauphine. The recipe is in Escoffier. They are really good cooked in grass fed beef dripping….not the vile stuff from the supermarket.

  5. Youngster says:

    These have become an instant hit with both Mrs Youngster and the little Youngsters. I am indebted to you for bringing these fluffy balls of salty, crispy goodness to my attention. I shall now attempt to add new ingredients (like chicken) to turn these from girlie sounding Pommes Dauphine into something manly men could eat while watching football. A sort of Haute Cuisine meets the Collingwood Magpies.

  6. Terry McManus says:

    Tater Tots (not that there’s anything wrong with that)!

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