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Mashed Potato Perfection

I posted this last year, but I think it’s work repeating, because well, it’s that time of year and we’re talking mashed potatoes…pure comfort food.  They are smooth, creamy and soft, the perfect foil for butter or gravy.  Potatoes are incredibly nutritious and by themselves relatively low cal; it’s the stuff we add that run up the calorie count, but…these are guiltless.   We love mashed potatoes.  Potatoes were the base for most of the foods I fed The Sons when they were babies.  They have wonderful minerals (the potatoes, not The Sons), are high in Vitamin C and potassium, the perfect baby food base.  To this day, The Sons get a rather dreamy look in their eyes when they know there will be mashed potatoes and gravy…a marriage made in heaven!

The real story here is the method.  My sister, The Gardening Dietitian, is a great cook and this is how she made the potatoes, when she offered to help me out.  She adds the water the potatoes cook in, back into the potatoes.  I thought she’d lost it completely, but they were wonderful.  Not only do you knock out huge amounts of calories, but you return a heap of the nutrients, that would be poured down the drain, back into the potatoes.  It’s brilliant, I tell ya’!  You really taste the purity of the potato and they stand up well to gravy.  You can always add butter, if that floats your boat.  With this version, you can eat more without feeling guilty.  That’s something to give thanks for, don’t you think?

Mashed Potato Perfection

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 5 pounds potatoes (I use a mixture of Russets and Yukon Gold), peeled
  • Water to cover by 1 inch
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2-3 tablespoons dried chives (it’s winter, remember?)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic granules (optional)
  • 2-4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes (optional, but tasty)

You’re going to need a large pot.  Fill it half full of cold water; set aside.  Cut the peeled potatoes (though you really don’t need to peel them if you don’t mind the peelings in the finished product) into large-ish chunks.  For tennis ball sized potatoes, I usually cut them in half.  Place the potatoes in the pot, as you finish peeling and cutting them into chunks.  Add the salt and garlic cloves and place the pot on the burner over high heat.  DO NOT COVER, or the water will boil over.  You may partially cover it, though.  Once the water boils, lower the heat to maintain a good boil.  Cook until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork (using a fork is more accurate than a knife, which slides in more easily).  Five pounds take about 20-25 minutes to cook, but make sure you check them after 15 minutes.  When they are tender, drain them, being very careful to keep the garlic cloves in the pot; you’re going to mash them right into the potatoes.  RESERVE the potato water in a large bowl.  I use an 8 cup measuring cup.  Place the pot with the drained potatoes on a flat surface and mash with a potato masher or put through a potato ricer (ricing them will make a fluffier “mashed” potato).  Now, begin to add some of the hot potato water back into the potatoes, mashing and whipping as you add the water.  Add it in incremental amounts so you don’t end up with soupy mashed potatoes.  Whip in the remaining ingredients, taste and correct the seasoning.

Make Ahead:  You can mash the potatoes up to an hour ahead of time, cover and let stand.  They hold the heat well.  If you need to reheat them, put the pot back on the burner over low heat, stirring every now and then until they are hot.  You may need to add a bit more potato water.

Mashed Potato Perfection Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

You might think that sounds like a lot of salt, but potatoes are a starch and starches require salt; think pasta and rice.  If you are serving your mashed potatoes with chicken or turkey, you might want to add some soup base (remember, you can get some great soup bases at The Spice Mill) to the water.  Another layer of flavor to compliment the gravy AND the poultry!

Also, a word about potatoes.  You want to use a “floury”, potato like a Yukon Gold or a Russet.  Red-skinned potatoes aren’t going to comfort you in the least…they will more than likely turn into a nice gluey mess that you can use to glue down that tile that came loose last week, but you aren’t going to want to put gravy on them!  The Goddess, in her self-absorbed holiday haze, wants the best of all worlds.  It’s a character flaw she’s working on, with little success, but that’s another story entirely.  Anyway, she uses both Yukon Gold (for some rich color and flavor) and Russet potatoes (for their fluffy consistency and flavor).  It works well and they cook at about the same rate.

Mashed Potato Perfection, Almost There!Mashed potatoes are a blank canvas for flavors.  If you want to add extras, by all means toss some in.  Remember to warm butter and cream.  Sour cream, cream cheese, Boursin cheese, goat cheese, bleu cheese, etc. should be at room temperature.  Adding cold things to potatoes can make even the best mashed potatoes seize and become gluey.  Even the best gravy won’t fix that!  Next, we’ll look at gravy…it’s not the mystery your mother made it out to be!  Oh, yes…one last thing.  The Goddess would like to remind you that any leftover potato water can be used as part of the liquid for the gravy.  It also makes great bread and will make that turkey soup you’re going to prepare after Thanksgiving, taste just that much better.  Frugality and flavor…The Goddess can rest now.  Her work is done.