Mashed Potatoes (The Potato Chronicles, Pt. 11)

Hearty beef gravy fills this mashed potato crater.

Making mashed potatoes is a simple thing, really. Everyone and their grandmother can make decent mashed potatoes. In fact, it’s probably from your grandmother that you learned how to make mashed potatoes, whether they’re smooth, chunky, starchy, dry, wet, cheesy, with bits of skin, made from russets or red or yellow or white potatoes or instant potato flakes. People seem to be somewhat particular when it comes to their mashed potatoes, and I can think of few dishes in the comfort-food classification that are so imbued with personal memory, and emotional family memories at that. Maybe it was your Aunt Regina who always made the Turkey Day mash, and forever that relationship is associated with whipped russets. Or maybe your Grammy made earthy, chunky smashed potatoes with skin-on waxy red potatoes on chilly late winter nights. And since then your favorite mashed potatoes dish brings to mind these specific moments in time.

I’m absolutely fascinated by the memories we make with food. My own early mashed potato memory has to do not with an exact recipe, but the tool we used. I remember in great detail mashing cooked steaming Idaho potatoes with a masher made of heavy-duty, dark olive-green plastic. It had a rectangular base with rectangular slots. I must have been five or so, but I still remember loving the process of mashing those hot spuds and adding butter and milk as I did it. The resulting mash was uneven, lumpy even, but absolutely delicious!

Now I prefer a creamier, smoother mashed potato. And I use a ricer or a food mill, both of which produce a heavenly, uniform mash that absorbs lots of luscious dairy. I use a heap of butter and a combination of half-n-half and whole milk. I prefer a simple, unadorned mash since my plan is always to pair it with a hearty, homemade gravy or a roast with lots of natural juices, like a succulent roasted chicken or standing rib-roast.

I like to use two kinds of potatoes. Russets and Yukon golds.

I rarely whip anything into my mashed potatoes, as that seems terribly “90’s” to me, but sometimes I’ll add parmesan cheese or minced scallions or roasted garlic. It occurs to me occasionally to add horseradish or cheddar or bacon bits, but that’s pretty rare. I generally prefer my mash to taste…well…of potato.

And on the subject of potatoes, I use a combination of russets and Yukon golds. I like the starchiness of the russets as they can absorb lots of fats, but I prefer the flavor and creaminess and color of the golds. When prepping the potatoes for boiling I cut the Yukons a little thinner than the russets as I find they take a little longer to cook. I think the combination of the two varieties is simply perfect! Try this recipe and see if you agree.

A couple of tips. I don’t recommend salting the boiling water of the potatoes. I think it can result in gummy potatoes. Also, after boiling, drain the potatoes and leave them in the strainer or colander for about five minutes; they will continue to cook for a few minutes and some of the water will steam off. The end result will be less watery and potentially fluffier.

That’s some bee-oo-tee-full mash!

You will need:

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup half & half
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Do this:
Peel the potatoes. Cut the russets into slices about 2/3 inch thick. Cut the Yukons into slices about a 1/2 inch thick. Soak potato slices for a half-hour or more in cold water. Place slices in a large pot and fill with cold water to cover at least two inches over the top of the potatoes. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to medium. Cook potatoes until they’re “fork-tender”. Drain potatoes for about five minutes.

While the potatoes are boiling, heat over low heat in a separate pot the milks, the butter, and the spices.  When the butter is melted turn off the heat. Warm up again before adding to the potatoes.

Using a potato ricer or a food mill, puree the potatoes. Put into a pot and add the warm milk and butter. Using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon mix the potatoes until all the liquid is fully absorbed. Eat immediately!

If you need to hold the potatoes for later, it’s best to reheat the potatoes in a double boiler. A double boiler can be as simple as a stainless-steel bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Keep it covered and simmering gently until you’re ready to serve dinner!

I hope you enjoy this recipe for creamy, buttery mashed potatoes!

Keeping in mind that I’m not promoting any particular brand, this is a decent food mill. If you’re interesting in something basic, chcek out this:
http://www.amazon.com/RSVP-Endurance-Stainless-Steel-Food/dp/B0000CFH1K/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1320101893&sr=8-3

This is the ricer I like:
http://www.amazon.com/Norpro-Stainless-Steel-Commercial-Potato/dp/B0009SVZ84

Earlier Episodes of the Potato Chronicles:

Sweet Potato Chips:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/10/sweet-pototo-chips-with-pink-salt.html
Crispy Hash Brown Cake with Provolone:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/10/crispy-hash-brown-cake-with-provolone.html
Potatoes Dauphinoise:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/gratin-dauphinoise.html
Pommes Anna:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/perfect-pommes-anna-is-awesomely.html
Potato Wedges:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/crispy-potato-wedges.html
French Fries:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/pommes-frites-french-for-french-fries.html
Potato Chips:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/light-crispy-homemade-potato-chips.html
Tater Tots:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/08/homemade-tater-tots-yep.html
Garlic & Lemongrass Home Fries:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/06/crispy-garlic-lemongrass-home-fries.html
Baked Mashed Potato Casserole:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/04/pommes-regina.html

One thought on “Mashed Potatoes (The Potato Chronicles, Pt. 11)

  1. Pingback: Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc | OMNIVOROUS

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