Classic Mashed Potatoes

After reading The Man Who Ate Everything, I decided to find my own personal best mashed potato recipe. Unlike the author, I’m unwilling to boil my potatoes twice or monitor their internal temperature. But follow these directions and your potatoes will be creamy (not gummy) and delicious. You’ll need a potato masher. Don’t use an electric mixer!

If the butter and half and half scare you, remember that we’re talking less than a tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of half and half per hearty serving. For perspective, that’s what you’d get on an order of toast and two cups of coffee, so don’t freak out. You can substitute whole milk, if you insist. But don’t you dare use skim or even 2%. If you’re going to do that, just bake them, for crying out loud.

Potatoes:

5 pounds of russet potatoes, peeled (Note: Starchy russet potatoes make the best mashers. While they’re tasty baked, the creamier yellow or Yukon gold potatoes you see everywhere these days make for gummier mashed potatoes; stick with russet)
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup half and half or whole milk (or a mixture of both)
plenty of salt and pepper

optional flavorings, at room temperature (choose one):

3 tablespoons crushed raw garlic
1/4 cup puréed roasted garlic
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1 cup sour cream

Before you start boiling the water, make sure your pot’s big enough put dumping in all your potatoes. They should fit, plus have about 3 inches headway. Fill pot 2/3 full of water and set on to boil.

While you’re waiting for the boil, peel and rinse your potatoes. If some are dramatically larger than the rest, cut them in half, but don’t go berserk trying to make them all the same size. Don’t ask me why, but mashers are better made from whole potatoes.

When the water boils, add your potatoes.

After 10 minutes, poke a potato with a skewer. They won’t be done yet, but you want to get a handle on what they feel like when they’re not ready, so you’ll have a good reference point. At 20 minutes, start testing for doneness in earnest. Poke into a potato with a skewer. It should slide right through without resistance. If they still feel hard in the center, keep boiling and test again every few minutes. Poke a couple different ones to make sure.

While you’re waiting on your potatoes to finish cooking, heat your half and half and add it to your melted butter. I just throw them both in the microwave for a minute or two. Have the hot butter/cream mixture at the ready. If you’re adding garlic, bleu cheese, or sour cream, have them at room temperature and ready to add.

You don’t want to waste any time in the next steps. You’ll want to do them quickly and serve immediately, so have the rest of the meal ready to go. This last step takes only a minute or two.

Drain the potatoes and transfer them immediately back into the still-hot pan (this will help evaporate any excess water). Using a potato masher, mash them immediately. If they’re nice hot russet potatoes, they will just crumble apart. Don’t over-mash; it should go fast.

Get rid of the masher and gently stir in hot cream and butter (plus any add-ins) until just absorbed. Serve immediately.



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