Mashed Potatoes

(6 servings)

Mashed potatoes are made with very good russets--Idahos--as well as with boiling potatoes such as Yukon Gold or medium red. They can absorb lots of milk and butter and will easily whip up smooth and fluffy. You can mash them several hours ahead--a great convenience when you are preparing a dinner for guests. Mash them by hand, or with a ricer, a food mill or an electric mixer (but not a food processor, lest they turn into glue). Add hot milk and butter to suit your own taste.

3 pounds baking potatoes (4 or 5 large), or Yukon Gold or medium red potatoes

Salt to taste

1/2 to 1 cup hot milk, plus more if needed

2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Freshly ground pepper (white for Julia; black for Jacques)

For garnish:

Long fresh chives, a thick bunch

Cooking the potatoes: Wash and peel the potatoes and cut in quarters, keeping them immersed in a bowl of cold water as you work to prevent discoloration. Put them in a large kettle with salted, cold water to cover (1 1/2 teaspoons of salt for every quart).

Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover, reduce the heat and cook at a medium boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a sharp knife. Test by eating a few bits here and there to be sure. Drain through a colander.

To dry the potatoes, return them to the empty dry pot. Set over medium heat and toss the pieces just until the pan begins to film.

Mashing with an electric mixer: Transfer the hot potatoes to the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at low speed to break up the pieces for a few seconds, then whip at medium speed, adding about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the hot milk. Still beating, add a tablespoon or 2 of butter, 1 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of pepper. Stop and taste the potatoes (scraping down the sides of the bowl and clearing the paddle if necessary). Adjust the seasonings and beat in more milk and butter as you wish.

Mashing in a ricer or food mill: Press the hot potatoes through a food mill or a potato ricer into a bowl or large saucepan. With a wooden spatula, beat in butter until potatoes are smooth. Season with 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, then pour in cup or more of the hot milk, stirring slowly until completely incorporated. Adjust the seasonings and stir in more butter or milk if you wish. Whip with a wire whisk to lighten.

Serve the potatoes at once or hold as follows.

Holding mashed potatoes: Place the bowl (or pan) of potatoes in a larger skillet with a few inches of hot--not simmering--water. Cover the bowl or pan of potatoes with a pot lid and stick in a wooden spoon to leave an air space open. Stir up vigorously every 10 minutes or so. Alternatively, smooth the top of the potatoes and cover completely with a thin layer of hot milk. Potatoes can be held in the double boiler up to 3 hours. To reheat, bring the surrounding water to a simmer and beat the potatoes with a spoon or spatula to lighten and/or to incorporate the covering layer of milk. Add more butter or milk if desired.

Serving and garnishing: Mound the potatoes on a round flat platter or shallow serving pan.

If you want to have some fun with the presentation, use the flat side of a knife to smooth the sides of the mounded potatoes into an even-sloping cone, rotating the platter as you would a cake. Make decorative scalloped indentations--lifting the dull edge of the knife up and down as you twirl the plate--that radiate from the top of the mound out to the side of the plate. Push a cluster of long chives down into the center of the potato mound, so it resembles a volcano erupting.

Per serving (with 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup milk): 226 calories, 5 gm protein, 42 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, 13 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 113 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Roast Pork Loin

(8 servings)

Here is an easy roast for a family dinner. The boneless pork loin is a solid, slender piece of meat, taken from one of the most tender parts of the pig--the "center cut" of the top loin muscle. It cooks quickly and evenly, and carves effortlessly into neat oval slices.

You can find loin roasts in every market, already trimmed, with no boning or tying necessary. Many supermarkets, in fact, buy entire pork loins already boned, and simply divide them into sizes convenient for their customers. If you don't see a 4-pound roast (serving 8), as we call for, ask the butcher to cut one--or a smaller or larger roast if you want. With minor adjustments in the seasoning, you can use this recipe for a delicious roast of any size. In any case, you want to use a meat thermometer. Today's pork is so lean that a loin can become dry if roasted to an internal temperature higher than 150 degrees or so (the temperature will rise while the meat rests).

Our method here keeps the meat moist--it is first browned on the stove, then roasted on a bed of apple wedges, which soften and release their juices. With a flameproof gratin dish or casserole, you can sear and roast (and even serve) the loin all in one dish.

One 4-pound boneless pork loin, well trimmed of all fat, "silver skin" and sinew

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons herbes de Provence

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

5 large Golden Delicious apples, peel on, each cored and cut into wedges (about 7 cups)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and the herbes de Provence all over the pork, and rub in the seasonings so they adhere. Set the baking dish over high heat with the butter and oil. When it is sizzling, lay in the roast and brown it over medium-high heat, turning it until nicely colored on all sides, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift the roast out of the baking dish and set it on a plate or cutting board. Spread the apple slices in 1 layer in the dish and sprinkle the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper over them. Replace the roast on the bed of apples.

Set the dish in the oven and roast for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally with the juices in the dish. After 50 minutes, start checking the internal temperature with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the loin. Roast to a temperature of 150 degrees, remove the meat from the oven, and let rest for about 10 minutes.

Slice the pork crosswise into thin slices, and serve on top of the apples, right in the baking dish if you like. Or remove the roast to a cutting board, scoop the apples onto a large serving platter, and spread them to form a ring around the edge of the platter. Arrange pork slices and the remaining roast in the center, and serve.

Per serving: 652 calories, 63 gm protein, 13 gm carbohydrates, 37 gm fat, 220 mg cholesterol, 13 gm saturated fat, 303 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Jacques Pepin

When he was 13 years old, Jacques Pepin gave up his education (or so it seemed then) for a life in the kitchen. "I could have continued school, but I didn't want to," he says. "I loved to cook."

And why not? He'd grown up in the kitchen of his family's restaurant in Bourg-en-Bresse, near Lyon in France. From his mother, who was the chef, Pepin learned basic skills (peeling potatoes, chopping onions) well enough to apprentice at the nearby Grand Hotel de L'Europe. Soon he was well on his way, and by the time he was in his early 20s, he'd been personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.

Eager to know more about America, the young chef headed for New York in 1959, and the day after he arrived began work in the kitchen of the prestigious Le Pavilion restaurant. After a time, he was wooed away by the Howard Johnson Company, where for 10 years he was director of research and new development. During that period, he resumed his education at Columbia University, where in 1972 he earned a master's degree in 18th-century French Literature.

In the '70s Pepin shared his knowledge of French culinary skills in "La Technique" and "La Methode," two of 19 books he's written that in 1996 earned him a place in the James Beard Foundation's Cookbook Hall of Fame. He has also starred in six award-winning culinary television series, including two with his daughter, Claudine.

The recipient of the Chevalier du L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Chevalier du L'Ordre du Merite Agricole, two of the French government's highest honors, Pepin is currently on the faculty of Boston University as well as the French Culinary Institute, where he is dean.

This year Pepin celebrates his 50th anniversary in the kitchen.

--Judith Weinraub

Jacques on Pork

All pork used to be cooked to 180 degrees and any pinkness was considered dangerous. But that's no longer necessary: The parasite that causes trichinosis is very rare today and in any case is killed at a temperature of 140 degrees. Further, at a temperature near 180 degrees a very lean pork loin or tenderloin would be quite dry. I make sure to trim away all fat and sinew--which need longer cooking--and remove the roast from the oven when it reaches a temperature of 150 degrees. The meat will continue to cook inside as it rests. At 155 or 160 degrees it is perfectly safe and the slices will be moist and tender, with a slightly rosy color.

Jacques on Mashed Potatoes

I prefer hand tools to an electric mixer for making my mashed potatoes. First I put them through a hand-cranked food mill, one of my favorite kitchen tools. Next I work in my seasonings with a wooden spatula--always the butter first, then the hot milk. Finally, if I want very light potatoes, called pomme mousseline, I whip them with a hand whisk.

If I've made them ahead, I keep the mashed potatoes in a double boiler. I cover the top completely with a layer of hot milk or cream--about 1/3 cup--or by putting a tablespoon or so of butter on top to melt and seal the surface. This prevents discoloration and will keep a skin from forming. Just before serving, I beat in the milk (or cream or butter) and the potatoes become fluffy again.

Julia Child

Julia Child didn't find her place in the kitchen until the end of World War II.

"I grew up in the teens and '20s when everybody had a maid," she says. And her years at Smith College in the '30s apparently didn't teach her about cooking either.

But in the late 1940s Child left the Office of Strategic Services (and jobs in Washington, Ceylon and China) to accompany her husband, Paul, to Paris where he was assigned to the U.S. Information Service. Marveling at the wonders of French food ("I was born hungry," she says, though she swears she didn't cook at all until her marriage), she soon enrolled at the Cordon Bleu Cooking School, where she met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. In the early 1950s, the three friends opened a cooking school, "L'Ecole des Trois Gourmandes," on the Rue de l'Universite in Paris and were soon at work on the ground-breaking "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," Volume I (1961).

That astoundingly influential book, and its second volume, which Child co-authored with Beck, led to a television interview at WGBH in Boston and a 10-year stint on "The French Chef." Her career since then has included six more television series and a dozen books, among them "From Julia Child's Kitchen" and "The Way to Cook." The recipient of several honorary degrees in this country (Harvard, Bates and Rutgers universities and Smith College), she has also been recognized by the French government with the Ordre du Merite Agricole and the Ordre du Merite National .

Child lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass., where the current television series with Jacques Pepin--"Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home," was filmed in her own kitchen. She has probably taught more Americans how to cook than any other single figure of her time.

--Judith Weinraub

Julia on Pork

It is just as easy to roast a large boneless pork loin as a small one, and then you will have plenty of slices for wonderful sandwiches or a nice meat salad.

Golden Delicious are definitely the apples to use in this dish. The flavor is always good and the wedges hold their shape, giving you an attractive garnish that makes a nice sauce as well.

Julia on Mashed Potatoes

The drier your potatoes are, the more butter and milk you can add. Therefore, it's a good idea to drain the potatoes as soon as they are done and toss over moderate heat for a few seconds, until the excess moisture evaporates and the potatoes begin to film the bottom of the pan. This is especially important if, instead of russets, you are using a less dry all-purpose potato, such as Yukon Golds.

Like Jacques, I keep my mashed potatoes fresh for 2 or 3 hours, set in a pan of hot water. But I keep mine loosely covered, the lid held ajar with a wooden spoon stuck in the potatoes. You must have air circulating; if the bowl is sealed airtight, I find that the potatoes develop the same disagreeable "stifled" taste that can mar a baked potato.

For mashing, I prefer to use the potato ricer when I have a moderate number, like 6 people. Then I use my big tough German ricer of heavy cast aluminum. But for a mob, like at Thanksgiving, give me my wonderful heavy-duty electric mixer with paddle attachment. It works beautifully, but I operate it very carefully and rather slowly, so as not to overmix and turn the potatoes into glue.