Good For the Holidays: Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I share this recipe not as a mashed potatoes expert; but in fact, just the opposite, as a mash potato maker newbie. A mashed potato maker newbie who was looking for the "right" way to make perfect mashed potatoes. So, I got out my cookbooks, searched the internet and compared the different ways different cooks went about their own mashed potato making and I found some discrepancies. I decided the best course of action was to take instruction from who I felt was the most qualified as a mashed potato maker. And that of course would be Mom and Martha. (Martha Stewart that is.) Anyhow, this is the recipe that I wrote up based on Martha and my mom's advice to making perfect mashed potatoes. These aren't super duper rich mashed potatoes (those just aren't my favorite); these are classic, creamy, comforting mashed potatoes. They can be made a bit richer, or even a bit poorer if you like. You could add chives, or Parmesan or garlic or whatever else you prefer. So if you are a mashed potato newbie like me, here are some tips and a (hopefully) straightforward recipe for you to try.

A few key tips I took away from my mashed potato research:

1. You want to start with the potatoes, all cut the same size, in cold water. Cold water, why? Because if you start with hot water the outside of the potato will cook faster than the inside and you will end up with uneven cooked, lumpy potatoes. (Tip I heard Giada say on her show, Giada at Home on the Food Network.)

2. Have a little extract milk and butter on hand to add if needed. Making perfect mashed potatoes is like making any perfect food; it's not about following the recipe but getting a feel for if this dish looks (and tastes) "right."

3. Use russet potatoes or Yukon gold. Why? Well, because that is what Mom and Martha say to do.

Mashed Potatoes

Serves 8

This recipe can be made a bit richer by using half-and-half or part half-and-half part milk, or a bit lighter by using a little less butter and 2 percent milk. This recipe can also be made with Yukon Gold potatoes.

8 medium russet potatoes (about 4 pounds), peeled, cut lengthwise
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, plus more to taste

Place the potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water and add the salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Potatoes are done when a knife easily inserts into the center of the potato.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan.

When the potatoes are tender, carefully drain the boiling water. Return the potatoes in the pot back to the burner and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to allow any excess moisture to evaporate. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes in the pot, or transfer the potatoes to a heatproof bowl and press potatoes through a ricer back into the warm pot. Stir in the butter. Drizzle over the warm milk, while stirring, or incorporate in the milk in batches. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Coking Note: Add more warm milk if needed.


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