A 1920s cookery book recommends this as a side dish for a pre-theater dinner. The puffs would accompany a green vegetable, such as peas or green beans, on a serving platter. The balls can be formed, rolled in the crumbs and refrigerated, loosely covered, a day in advance. Bring to room temperature before baking.
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters, or into sixths if the potatoes are large
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks, plus 1 whole egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup plain fine dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Line a work surface with a few layers of paper towels.
Fill a large pot with several inches of water, add the onion wedges and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the onion is very soft, about 40 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onion to a colander and allow to drain for several minutes, then transfer to the paper towels. Use more paper towels to press on the onion, extracting as much of the moisture as possible. Transfer to a blender and puree.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with cooking oil spray.
Add the potatoes to the water in the pot, adding water if needed to cover them by 1 inch. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, 12 to 15 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain in a colander.
Return the empty pot to the stove over medium heat. Return the potatoes to the pot and cook, tossing, for 1 to 2 minutes or until their moisture has evaporated.
Put the potatoes through a ricer or mash with a potato masher. Stir in the pureed onion, then quickly beat in the butter and egg yolks. Add the salt and pepper. Beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream, keeping the mixture thick enough to hold its shape.
Use a fork to beat the remaining whole egg in a small bowl. Spread the bread crumbs on a small plate. Use your hands to form the potato mixture into 21 golf-ball-size balls (about 11/2 ounces each). Brush each with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little parsley. Dip them in the crumbs, rolling to coat evenly. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
Bake 20 minutes, until hot and slightly browned. Serve hot. Makes about 21 small puffs, 7 servings.
Source: Adapted from “Kitchen Essays,” by Agnes Jekyll (Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1922; reprinted in 2008 by Persephone Books).
Per serving: 200 calories, 4 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 3 g sugar.