Among the most elegant ways to elevate even the plainest mashed potatoes is an old-school French classic, pommes Dauphine –- golden-brown, deep-fried mashed potato puffs.
What makes pommes Dauphine iconic –- and distinctive from the humble leftover mashed potato cakes you may have tasted –- is the mash is enriched with pâte à choux, the classic French eggy cooked batter used to make cream puffs and eclairs. And, just as the pastry bases for cream puffs and eclairs are puffy and hollow, the little rounds of pommes Dauphine are airy and lighter than plain fried potatoes.
How to do it:
Cover potatoes generously with cold salted water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and cook until tender when pierced with a skewer or sharp knife (25-30 minutes). Drain, then, when cool enough to handle, peel and coarsely chop. Return to a clean pan, mash, then stir over low heat to steam off excess moisture (1-2 minutes).
Meanwhile, make the choux pastry, then beat in mashed potato, herbs, baking powder and nutmeg. Season generously to taste.
Heat oil in a large, deep saucepan to 180C. Add rough tablespoonfuls of potato mixture in batches of 5 or 6 and deep-fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown (2-3 minutes; be careful, hot oil will spit). Drain on paper towels.
Meanwhile, for herb and lemon salt, rub ingredients together in a bowl with your fingertips until fragrant and combined, and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Scatter mixture over pommes dauphines and serve hot with Dijon mustard for dipping.