A dauphine is the wife of the dauphin, he who was next in line to the throne of France, when there was such a thing. The dauphine lives on with that wonderful dish so loved by traditional French cooks—pros and home bods—pommes dauphine. If the real Poms, those across the Channel, had a version, this wonderful blend of mashed potato and choux pastry would surely be called poms Cammy, thus showing due respect to the wife of the Prince of Wales. Whether this would have the same appeal is up for conjecture. After Brexit, it may well appear in the best eating houses of Wales?
For the French, it’s unclear how the name came about; its first reference is in the 1890s, when the concept of a French king was long gone. It could well have been derived from the south-west province of Dauphiné, home to a similar dish, pommes dauphinoise, in which raw potatoes are baked with as much cream as any French person could reasonably take, plus a good hit of butter and a thwack of garlic and a long bake. It makes me hungry just thinking about it.
Pommes dauphine is a natural for the Thermomix—the choux pastry and mash are each a simple matter of pressing the right buttons—it’s just a matter of getting the right combinations and texture of the end mixture.
What didn’t help us in the preparation was Fernand Point’s cooking memoir, Ma Gastronomie, a classic example of what works in bulk may not necessarily work at home. M. Point, himself the dauphin of the nouvelle cuisine movement, does make a good point in his narrative, when he writes: “The whole art of making pommmes dauphine lies in the way one prepares the choux pastry.” That’s a shoo-in with the Thermomix.
M. Point’s recipe, which no doubt served him and his diners well at his renowned restaurant La Pyramide, is worth recounting, just to show how difficult it is to interpret verbatim recipes when you’re not used to the sleight of hand that is apparent in any professional kitchen. In the interview with Ed Behr, I made reference to this via the comment in Behr’s book (The Food and Wine of France) by the baker Gérard Meunier: “A lot of experience touching the dough makes a difference. That’s not necessarily something that’s explained very well in writing.” This Point recipe is a classic example, and is worth presenting as a reason why the works of great chefs need great cooks to interpret and present in a way that is simple for those of us who have not been peeling garlic since we were 14.
“To make the choux pastry, boil 16 ounces of water in a thick, heavy-bottomed saucepan with three and one-half ounces of butter, one teaspoon of sugar and one-half teaspoon of salt.
“As soon as the liquid is boiling rapidly, take the saucepan off the heat and pour in eleven ounces of sifted flour. Beat this mixture together thoroughly and put the pan back on the heat. Work with a wooden spoon to dry out the mixture and until the paste detaches itself from the spoon and glistens lightly. Remove it from the heat and beat in eight eggs, adding two at a time and beating well after each addition.
“Combine 10 ounces of the choux pastry with two pounds of mashed cooked potatoes, three and one-half ounces of butter and four egg yolks. Mix well, roll the mixture into potato shapes about the size of a cork and deep fry.”
M. Point’s recipe may or may not help, but surely Yolaine Corbin’s interpretation will make sure it works every time. Although the best outcome is to deep fry the potato-choux blend, baking works almost as well.