18 October 2012

Perfect Mashed Potatoes - The Perfect Accompaniment to, Well, Everything!


It is no exaggeration to say that I love mashed potatoes (aah ... fluffy, buttery comfort food) and could happily eat them every day. I can't tell you how many meals I've been served where I've said to myself, "This would be sooo much better with mashed potatoes" than whatever side dish the chef had chosen. But you might be saying ...

"Mashed potatoes? Who needs to read a blog post about, or get a recipe for, mashed potatoes? You just make them, right?" Well, judging by all the bad ones I've eaten in my life, No! Though, truth be told, I even rather like some of the bad ones. But plain old mashed potatoes--not a fancy, enhanced version--can be stellar.

If you grew up with really good mashed potatoes, as I did, you know what I'm talking about. My mother made them so well that when I had them away from home I was stunned to discover mashed potatoes could be bad in any number of ways: bland, watery, lumpy, gummy, gluey, gooey, runny.

Of course, there's nothing difficult or even tricky about making mashed potatoes. It's just a matter of making them with care. I learned that from my mother, who had a way of making everything taste better than anyone else's version, even something with identical ingredients. Just taking an extra few seconds to dry out the boiled potatoes, an extra few strokes of the masher to get out those last lumps, another moment to taste and adjust the seasoning--a little care makes all the difference.

Apologies to many of you, I'm sure, but why put garlic in mashed potatoes? I'm sure there's garlic in the main dish. A meal should have a variety of flavors. If one dish has garlic, the others need not. I've been disappointed by many an expensive meal where everything--bread, main dish, side dishes and salad--was loaded with garlic. C'mon ... there are other flavors! 

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

3 pounds russet potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk, perhaps a little more
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 Peel, rinse and quarter the potatoes (cut large potatoes into 6 pieces). Put them in a 3-quart saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt and cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer, loosely covered, about 20 minutes or until potatoes are very tender.

2 During the last 5 minutes, heat the butter and 1/3 cup of milk until the butter is melted. You may need to add up to another few tablespoons of milk at the last to get the proper consistency, but don't heat it with the butter as you might not need it.

3 Drain the potatoes and return them to low heat to dry the moisture out of the potatoes. Remove from the heat. Put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill, as I used to do when I was really fussy, or use a potato masher to mash them thoroughly. With wooden spoon, beat in the heated milk and butter and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and coarsely ground black pepper (maybe start with 1/4 teaspoon). You may need to add a little more milk to get the consistency you like. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Note: A few things that go beautifully with mashed potatoes: Chicken Fried Steak, Boeuf Bourguignon, Braised Brisket, London Broil, Pan-Seared Ribeye Steaks, Pork Chops and Gravy, Short Ribs Braised in Wine.

34 comments:

Sippity Sup said...

Perfect indeed. GREG (pinned)

Jean said...

Thanks, Greg! AND thanks for the pin - much appreciated!

Cranberry Morning said...

If I hadn't just eaten dinner, I would want those. I haven't made mashed potatoes for a very long time, and yet they were on our menu probably 4 nights out of 7 when I was growing up! They look delicious. :-)

Jean said...

Thanks, Judy! I wish I was having them now, but mashed potatoes don't really go well with rigatoni and meatballs!

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Now you're talking, Jean! Music to my husband's ears. He loves mashed potatoes and makes the biggest batch you've ever seen for Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners! Pretty good too.

You have such a way with bringing common sense to good old comfort food, Jean.

Jean said...

Sue, thank you. I value common sense in all things and consider that a great compliment! Traveling in "foodie" circles as I do, I eat (and sometimes make) a lot of fancy frou-frou food; but comfort food is my favorite.

Just a Smidgen said...

I always like a tip or two for this sort of dish.. I didn't know I was supposed to dry out the potatoes, so great to know!

Jean said...

Super! I'm glad you picked up a tip. I'm still learning tips all the time after all these years!

LANA said...

Mashed potatoes are on of those things that I will never tire of. Thanks for the tips - I never thought to dry out the potatoes after cooking them. Will try that next time.

Jean said...

Thanks, Lana. I think that step is new to a lot of people. Hope it works well for you.

Yenta Mary said...

It's surprising how many people make gummy, goopy mashed potatoes. It seems such a simple thing, like an omelette; but ....

Jean said...

Mary, there's a word - goopy - I should have used! And my husband had one, too - gaggy!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Mashed potatoes. Great dance back in another millennium. And you can shape them into a great lakebed in which to put melted butter. Alas, I do miss that (another way to eat butter). But for me it’s just a texture food that adds calories I’d rather spend on something else. Texture foods are what I call essentially neutral tastes. Bland fits in there, no-taste fits in there. If my taste buds don’t swoon or go to five alarms, it’s a texture food. Nothing personal against potatoes – hey, I’m Irish! Just not an exciting eating experience for me. If they offered some hard to get nutrient, I’d eat them as a matter of eating to live as opposed to living to eat. All that said, you make the case nicely for your love of them, Jeani. A mark of the true prose-smythe you are. And good prose is always my – um – cup of tea.

Jean said...

Thanks, Sully - "prose-smythe." Any vehicle for more butter or sauce, etc, is an important item on MY plate! Think of "neutral" mashed potatoes as a necessary little "break" for your tastebuds between bites of five-alarm foods.

Charles said...

I like to go a bit heavy with the salt in mashed potatoes because it's one of those things which is just perfect when you can really start to taste the salt (but not too much of course). God, the mash we used to have at school was so bad... pale, anaemic cement filled with grey lumps... yuck! I think that experience is probably what made me so careful about my own mash now!

Jean said...

Charles, I agree. You have to use an adequate amount of salt in mash, or you might as well not make it at all. I think it's sad that more schools don't do a better job of preparing lunches the students can enjoy.

Oregon Kimm said...

Just the same as we make them. Lots of mashing by hand, with equal part love of course!

Jean said...

Thanks, Kimm! I think it's the love that puts the comfort into comfort food!

Jenn said...

There really isn't a more comforting food than mashed potatoes in my book! And these look perfect!

Jean said...

Thanks, Jenn! I'm having them again tonight - yay!

Richard Sheppard said...

I loooooove mashed potatoes. I could eat a huge bowl of these. Good thing Thanksgiving is coming up. The perfect excuse to whip up a batch!

Jean said...

Thanks, Richard. As far as I'm concerned, the mashed potatoes are the most important part of the whole big deal turkey dinner!

Isobel Cripps (Phillips) said...

LONG LIVE MASHED POTATOES! A staple of my diet that I simply couldn't live without!

Jean said...

Thanks, Isobel! A comment like that from a person like yourself with a sophisticated palate validates me! Hear, hear!

ImSoVintage said...

Yum. I have never met a mashed potato that I didn't like :)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Aww, all the nicest people feel that way about mashed potatoes! :)

sfdrew said...

Why not steam the potatoes instead of boiling them? You don't have to remove the excess moisture and it's faster too!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Yes, that works too! There are texture issues, though, steaming them with skins off. And then there are handling-hot-potatoes issues if you steam them with skins on. Unless, of course, you leave the skins on, which some people like. But I like my mashed potatoes skinless. So that - and, mainly, just the habit of many years - is why I prefer to boil the potatoes for mashing.

Carole said...

Jean, I agree with you about mashed potatoes! Thanks for linking this in. Cheers

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you, Carole! I'm a mashed potato addict!

Sandi@ Rose Chintz Cottage said...

Well, we make our mashed potatoes pretty much the same way only I never thought to heat the milk. Will try that next time. You are fortunate to have learned some wonderful tips from your mother. I never liked mashed potatoes growing up because my dear mother always served them simply mashed; no butter and no milk. It was only after I got married and started to experiment that I learned mashed are so much better whipped with butter and milk. The pepper is a plus too. Thanks for sharing, Jean.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Sandi, thank you for checking out the potatoes as well as the post of the day! Mashed potatoes just might be my favorite food in the world, so I love to share my mashed potato hints!

Anonymous said...

Wow Jean,

Lily has her Mashed-Potato-Groove-Back! Thank you! I had forgotten somewhere over the last several decades that I needed to put the potatoes back on the heat after draining to dry them - like my mom taught me. No wonder mine weren't what they used to be! You have single handily saved one of KP's most favorite dishes! :O

So I am swinging by today to my online cookbook to see the recipe again and get it printed up! When I need a recipe I always check here first so I found this a couple of weeks ago and wanted to thank you now I know it works so well.

I do come by now and then to catch up on all the posts here but am not commenting much these days. Shame on me. It has been an "interesting" summer and so I got quiet. Hopefully soon that will change.

Much Love to my Fave Chef,
Lily

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

My dear Lily, it's so good to hear from you! I have wondered about you and was on the verge of going through my email addresses so I could email you. Thank you so much for your kind words. Mashed potatoes - probably my single most favorite food in all the world - happy to "save" it for KP! I hope the rest of your summer will be less "interesting" than it's been so far. Love and hugs.

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