Short week, short week, it’s gonna be a short week! I am obviously excited about the truncated work week – and of course about the reason for it – Thanksgiving. Yesterday we talked turkey, and of course I could go on, and on, AND ON. But I won’t, because I’d like you to actually enjoy reading this from time to time.
Today though we’ll look into a topic that’s much shorter in length, but no less important in my humble opinion. Potatoes. I mean potatoes play a big part in our culinary lives all year round, so clearly at such a f00d-centered holiday as Thanksgiving they would be similarly revered. To be honest, during the rest of year I’m a roasted potato girl all the way. The crispy edges, the creamy interiors, and I might be drooling now, here, at 7AM. But the holidays call for something special, something homey, something on which you can pour irresponsible amounts of gravy. Mashed potatoes it is!
But now we’ve opened the can of worms that is choice. I mean it seems simple right – mashed potatoes are just potatoes that are mashed. But just go ahead a google it. I’ll give you a second. Yeah, that’s right – over 55 million results. All those results equate to opinions. And internet opinions (in case you have been living under a rock and never glanced at the comments section on any human interest piece ever) are some of the strongest out there.
First what kind of potato do you start with?
Most traditionalists will opt for russets (ie: your basic baking potato). These have the most starch content and break down easily which equals super fluffy mash. BUT they’re kinda bland. Just think about how much stuff you usually pile onto a baked potato to make it an enjoyable eating experience, and I think you’ll nod in agreement. A much more flavorful option, in my opinion, would be the yukon gold. They just look buttery, right? And although they’ll never be quite as fluffy as a russet…I don’t really care, because they taste damn good. So that’s settled.
Then how do you cook them?
Some say to bake and peel, others stand by steaming, I myself prefer to boil. Not because I think it’s the most effective method but because my brain doesn’t really have to engage that way. Cold water, chunked up potatoes, salt, and boil gently until tender. It’s the way that grandmas have done it for decades and grandmas generally know their stuff.
The real quandry comes when you consider how to pulverize your potatoes down to a mash. And honestly, this is the part that really matters. You can pick the very best potato and cook it to perfection, but if you mess up the mashing part, well I won’t fill your head with self doubt right before the holiday – but just know it won’t be pretty.
Good news is that it’s totally easy to avoid disaster. All you have to remember is not to overdo it. I know I’ve mentioned this before, perhaps when making biscuits, or baking cakes. But overworking, overmixing, or in this overmashing anything that’s starchy is usually bad news. Some light science – the more you agitate the potatoes, the more starch you release. This starch mixes with the liquid in the potatoes and binds to form a gluey mess, which is, as you probably already guessed, not ideal.
So how do you avoid potatoes that could be mistaken for wallpaper paste?
Again, just don’t overdo it. You could use a ricer (basically looks like an enormous garlic press), which very effectively breaks down the potatoes for a light and ethereally creamy mash. Or you could go the old fashioned route and mash by hand. Just don’t be too focused on pulverizing every. single. solitary. lump – because you’ll wind up in glue town.
But how do I make mine? Well because I’m super lazy, and absolutely HATE mashing potatoes. I bring out the big guns – my stand mixer. I’ve found that this is absolutely the fastest, easiest way to get beautiful, homestyle mashed potatoes. This is not to be confused with the food processor, which I’ve also tried with tremendously bad results (something about the aggressive heat that comes from the blades). But the mixer I guess is just powerful enough to be effective, while being gentle enough not to anger the starch gods. I have not tried this with a hand mixer, because I don’t own one. But I gander it would work. If you try it, please let me know.
Yukon golds, peeled, chunked, and tossed in a pot of cold water with a bunch of salt. Boil gently until fork tender. Drain. I usually put the spuds back in the pot over low heat so any surface moisture can evaporate. Then they go into the bowl of my stand mixer, with the whisk attachment. They get beaten up for no more than 30 seconds. Then a warm mixture of butter and cream is added and you mix for one minute more, stopping every 20 seconds or so to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then you’re done! Seriously it’s that easy.
Things to be mindful of:
- Because this process goes crazy fast, you’ll want to have your butter and cream all ready to go before you start with the mixer.
- The bowl will get quite hot, so a kitchen towel or oven mitt is totally necessary.
- Just like with a hand mashed spud – these will never be entirely smooth and lump free – it’s ok though, because they’re stupid delicious.
- DO season to taste with salt and pepper at the end, but DON’T use the mixer at this point. Just fold it in with a spatula.
And with that you’ll have deliciously creamy, beautiful mashed potatoes that required absolutely zero elbow grease.
Tomorrow – gravy, with a twist!
Easiest Mashed Potatoes
- November 19, 2018
- 8 Servings
- 25 min
- Print this
- 3 LBs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
- 4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 C heavy cream
- 6 T unsalted butter, melted
- Ground black pepper
- Step 1
- Place potatoes in a large pot with salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a low boil and cook until potatoes show no resistance when pierced with a fork. This took me about 15 minutes
- Step 2
- While potatoes cook, heat cream in the microwave (or the on the stovetop) until hot but not boiling. Add the melted butter and set aside.
- Step 3
- Drain potatoes in a colander and put back in the pot over low heat for one minute, or until the potatoes look dry on the outside.
- Step 4
- Transfer potatoes to the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Step 5
- Beat potatoes on high for 15-30 seconds, or until potatoes start to break down, but are still crumbly.
- Step 6
- Add the butter and cream mixture and beat on medium speed for one minute, pausing every 20 seconds to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Step 7
- Taste for seasoning, and using a spatula, fold in any necessary salt and pepper.
- Step 8
- Serve immediately, or keep warm in a slow cooker or over a double boiler.