The potato was most likely introduced to North Africa by the Spanish. The acceptance of the potato into local cooking was probably made easier by the similarity between the potato and the native tirfās, or North African truffle (Melanogaster variegatus). In fact, another tuber, the sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus), is called tirfās, originally a Berber name, in North Africa. This preparation is particularly good with Kalmār 'Aṣbān (stuffed squid) and is often served with many dishes in Algeria. An Algerian potato purée should not look like our mashed potatoes; it should have a near-fluid Cream of Wheat consistency. This style of potato purée also appears in Majorca as puré de patata: a smooth creamy purée often mixed with grated Mahon cheese, a cheese from Menorca with a sharp Parmesan-like taste. And in the Valencian province of Castellón a thicker potato purée is served with swordfish.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
2 pounds russet baking potatoes
1/3 cup hot whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Wash the potatoes, place in a large saucepan, and cover with 1 inch of cold water. Turn the heat to medium and once it comes to a boil, in about 20 minutes, cook until a skewer glides easily to the center of the potato, about another 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes, peel once cool enough to handle, and pass them through a food mill back into the saucepan you cooked them in. If you don't have a food mill it is better to mash by hand with a potato masher rather than an electric mixer or food processor, which will make the potatoes gummy.
2. Beat in the milk, butter, and cheese a little at a time with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat the potato purée over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until it gets hot. Or keep warm and covered until needed.