Doenjang Adds Umami Notes to Mashed Potatoes

Doenjang 된장 Mashed Potatoes Butter, Roasted Seaweed, Gochugaru, Sesame Seed, Black Pepper

Doenjang 된장 Mashed Potatoes
Butter, Roasted Seaweed, Gochugaru, Sesame Seed, Black Pepper

Umami is the savory taste and round mouth-feel imparted by glutamate and nucleotides found in certain foods. Doenjang, that funky-chunky-fermented-aged Korean soybean paste, has an exceptionally robust umami profile.

In 1908, a chemistry professor at Tokyo Imperial University was intrigued by the complex flavor and deliciousness of dashi, a simple Japanese soup base made from seaweed. Upon investigation, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda was able to isolate the principal flavor ingredient of kombu (the kelp used to make dashi). Using classical chemistry procedures he identified this substance as glutamic acid.

Glutamic acid is a type of amino acid, which are the building blocks of proteins. Bound with minerals such as sodium, potassium, or magnesium – glutamic acid becomes glutamate, a salt. It is the salt form of glutamic acid that elicits the taste. Following Ikeda’s glutamate discovery, other foods were determined to be sources of umami, and that the process of fermentation forms and releases amino acid and nucleotide compounds as well.

Doenjang is made from dried soybeans which are boiled and stone-ground into a coarse paste, then formed into blocks called meju and allowed to ferment with the help of warmth or sunlight and bacteria. One to three months later, the blocks are placed in large pottery jars and covered with a very salty brine as the fermentation process continues.  At the end of the long process the liquid is filtered off, this liquid is Korean soy sauce called ganjang, and the remaining solids are our salty-earthy-complex-umami rich paste with a pungent aroma – called doenjang.

Doenjang 된장 Mashed Potatoes Recipe

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La Purée de Pommes de Terre de Joël Robuchon

La Purée de Pommes de Terre de Joël Robuchon

La Purée de Pommes de Terre de Joël Robuchon

Can mashed potatoes be forever memorable? Oui! Especially if the recipe comes from “Chef of the Century” Joël Robuchon. With just  four ingredients – potato, butter, milk, salt – his legendary Purée de Pommes de Terre recipe takes the humble potato and turns it into something impossibly elegant and silky and oh so rich. A potato dish of dreams that we were fortunate to enjoy at a “dinner of small tasting portions” at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas here.

Chives in the Garden

While Robuchon’s pommes de terre are typically served sans garnish, it is Spring, and my garden chives are in bloom. I don’t think he would mind my fresh addition to this signature dish… Joyeux Printemps, Chef!

French Mashed Potato Recipe

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A Potato Lover’s Dream: Colcannon, Three Ways

kimchi mashed potatoes, kimchi colcannon

Kimchi Colcannon
Garlic, Scallion, Butter

cabbage leek colcannon

Green Cabbage & Leek Colcannon
Chick Peas, Olive Oil, Nutmeg, Garlic

southern greens colcannon guinness gravy

Southern Greens Colcannon
Mustard, Turnip, Collards, Spinach
Guinness Gravy

I am of Russian, Romanian, English, and German descent. But on March 17th I will be Irish. In the spirit of St. Paddy’s Day, I’ve been playing with potatoes. Mashed potatoes. Been taking the famous Irish potato & cabbage dish, colcannon, and giving it my spin. I was going to share one recipe, but honestly, I can’t pick just one. Spicy fermented garlicky kimchi with butter and scallion? Green cabbage and leek flavored with nutmeg, studded with chick peas? Loads of dark leafy greens with Guinness gravy? Please, you pick. . .

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Mashed Potato. Chestnut. Nutmeg. Butter.

mashed potato and chestnut

Mashed Potato. Chestnut. Nutmeg. Butter.

Mashed potatoes with a heavenly creamy nuttiness where the chestnut lends a muted sweetness and the nutmeg, a warm spicy perfume. How in the world did such a sublime combination of everyday ingredients elude me for decades? Mashed Potato. Chestnut. Nutmeg. Butter. (Plus a bit of light cream for the mash, salt and pepper). It’s a glorious side dish.

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