Summer Basil Mashed Potatoes
Summer Basil Mashed Potatoes

For those who love to cook, the memory of a dish once savored can linger for a long time. Back in the 1990s, I fell in love in a small Paris bistro with both the taste and the look of some creamy, basil-scented mashed potatoes, and now years later have come up with a close facsimile of the French original.

Classic mashed potatoes made with Yukon Golds are enriched by the unexpected but delicious addition of tender, sauteed leeks. However, the secret to this recipe lies in the herb-infused milk prepared by heating torn basil leaves in a small amount of milk and then pureeing the two ingredients together. When stirred into the warm mashed potatoes, the basil puree turns the mixture a lovely celadon green and adds an extra layer of flavor.

These beautiful potatoes flecked with verdant bits of fresh basil would make an irresistible summer side to grilled entrees. Serve them with steaks seasoned with coarse salt and pepper, with lemon and olive oil-marinated chicken, or with garlic-studded butterflied lamb. They also pair well salmon fillets cooked over an open fire.

The potatoes can be assembled several hours ahead and reheated at serving time, so there's no last-minute worry.

Summer Basil Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups finely chopped leeks, white and light green parts only

1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup whole milk, plus more if needed

1/2 cup very tightly packed torn basil leaves, plus 1 to 2 sprigs for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the leeks. Heat the butter in a medium, heavy frying pan over medium-low heat. When hot, add the leeks and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully and lower the heat if necessary. Add the broth and cook until almost all liquids have evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes or longer.

Place the milk and 1/2 cup packed fresh torn basil leaves in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until the leaves have wilted and the milk is warm, only 1 to 2 minutes. Puree this mixture in a food processor until the basil is minced.

When the potatoes are done, strain and return them to the pot. Mash with a potato masher, and then stir in the pureed basil mixture and the leeks. Salt and pepper them to taste. Add more milk for creamier potatoes. Cover the potatoes to keep them warm for up to 20 minutes. (The potatoes can be prepared 4 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Reheat over low heat, stirring constantly and adding a little extra milk if needed, until warm, or reheat them in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave.)

Mound the potatoes in a bowl and garnish with basil sprigs.


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Summer Basil Mashed Potatoes

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