Perfecting Your Mashed Potatoes
Posted: November 26, 2012
Mashed potatoes are one of my family’s favorite comfort foods. When I was young, you didn’t have a holiday meal or Sunday dinner without mashed potatoes. The first time I made mashed potatoes for my husband; he took the first bite and asked where the lumps were. I was astonished that he had never eaten mashed potatoes without lumps. Different families have different methods of preparing mashed potatoes, as well as different expectations. At my home, mashed potatoes had to be clear of lumps. It took him a while to get used to “my mashed potatoes,” but he soon came around since I was the one doing the cooking.
The Idaho Potato Commissioner offers the following directions on making mashed potatoes. Begin with 2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 5 cups). Place potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Cook 13 to 15 minutes or until very tender. Drain potatoes in a colander. Return cooked potatoes to pot and stir over medium heat, about 1 minute until the excess water has evaporated. With potato masher, mash in ¾ cup hot milk, 2 tablespoons butter, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Beat with wooden spoon until potatoes are smooth and creamy. Stir in any optional add-ins, such as ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese or 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley or dill, if desired.
If mashing potatoes by hand, use an up and down motion rather than a stirring motion to keep from breaking down the cells into a gummy paste. Never over-beat or use a food processor, as they will end up like glue. If you aren’t sure how many potatoes you need for your guests, one pound or 3 medium potatoes will make 2 cups mashed potatoes.
When adding milk or cream, heat milk just to a simmer, but do not boil. If you want a more tangy sour cream flavor, use buttermilk instead of milk or cream. Whipping cream adds richness, and you may want to whip the cream until stiff and fold into the potatoes just before serving to add airiness. Butter should be at room temperature before adding to mashed potatoes. You can also substitute fat free chicken or vegetable broth in place of milk products to reduce calories and fat.
Raw potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator, as the cold turn the starches to sugar. Potatoes should be cut into uniform slices or cubes so that all cook evenly. If you leave the skins on, be sure to cut the potatoes in smaller pieces so you don’t end up with large chunks of skin. Use a Crockpot to keep mashed potatoes warm and free up your stove. For ease of clean-up, use a Crockpot disposable cooking bag.
If you have any mashed potatoes left, place them in a buttered baking dish and top with a mixture of buttered bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees F. until warmed and top is browned, about 30 minutes.