Monday, May 25, 2015

Quick and Easy Mashed Potatoes

Is there anyone on the planet that doesn't love mashed potatoes? If there is I haven't met them. Mashed potatoes are a crowd pleaser, and any self respecting home cook needs to be able to make a good version of it. They're incredibly easy to make to make well. Any home cook can make satisfying and delicious mashed potatoes.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I have a repertoire of dishes that are delicious, easy to make, and everyone loves. Mashed potatoes are also on that list.

Making them over the years I've learned a couple of tricks to make them taste better. And I think my mashed, despite being simple, are quite good. I've even had a family member tell me once my mashed were the best they'd ever had. I say that not to boost my own ego, but to make the point that great mashed potatoes are easy to make. Anyone can do it.

Most recipes call for russet potatoes. I don't use them, for two reasons. One, you have to peel them, and two, they take longer to cook. I like to use red potatoes (sometimes called new potatoes). They cook quickly, and you don't have to peel them, saving time and effort. Plus the skins add texture, flavor, and nutrients.

The most important thing to remember when making mashed potatoes is to use lots of salt and butter. I very generously salt the water I cook them in. The potatoes taste better to me when the water is salted than when just salting them after the fact. And of course butter makes everything taste better. Butter and potatoes are a match made in heaven. I've coined a phrase: "If you think you've put enough butter in your potatoes, you haven't." The key to really good mashed potatoes is butter, butter, butter!

My Cutco potato masher. I've had it for 20 years.
I use an old fashioned potato masher. I like my mashed potatoes mashed. And I like them a bit rustic with lots of chunks. Of course you can use a hand mixer, or a potato ricer, but that adds time and additional clean up, and that's fine for special occasions, but our goal here is to make something incredibly delicious, quickly and easily.

Lastly, dairy. I like to use half and half. I always have some on hand and it makes for creamier potatoes, but most any diary works. Sometimes I'll use buttermilk which adds a nice tang. The key is to use just the right amount of dairy. You don't want the potatoes too dry, nor do you want them runny.

Quick and easy mashed potatoes:

4 large red potatoes, about 1 1/2 lbs
Dairy (milk, half and half, cream, or buttermilk)
3/4 to 1 stick of butter
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the potatoes to be sure they're clean then rough chop them into large cubes
Add to a pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes
Add several generous pinches of kosher salt
Heat on high until boiling, once boiling check for doneness at about the 6 or 7 minute mark. They should be just al dente, you don't want to overcook them.
Drain off the water, add the butter, a few turns of ground pepper and a good splash of dairy, then mash. Once you're happy with the consistency, taste and add more dairy and salt as needed.

I realize my measurements are vague, but the amounts used do vary, and as always experience is your best friend. As I said, the key is to use plenty of salt and butter. Don't be afraid of them.

My recipe, not counting the time for the water to boil and the potatoes to cook, takes a total of 4 or 5 minutes.


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