When it comes to favourite comfort foods, mashed potatoes are near the top of my list. They are the perfect side to serve with gravy-based dishes such as turkey and roast beef and no holiday table would be complete without them.
The great thing about potatoes (aside from being delicious) is that they are very inexpensive and readily available year-round. I’m from New Brunswick, Canada, which is a major potato-producing region (McCain’s, the world’s largest producer of frozen french fries, is based there). A couple of years ago, I saw a roadside sign near Fredericton advertising 50 pounds of potatoes for $9.99 so it’s no surprise that they were a staple at our dinner table almost every night.
To make smooth, creamy mashed potatoes, here are a few tips that will ensure success:
- Choose starchy potatoes such as Russets (also known as Idaho or baking potatoes). Yukon Golds also work well and have a nice buttery interior. Avoid waxy ‘boiling’ potatoes such as fingerlings or red potatoes.
- Cutting the potatoes into chunks will speed the cooking process. You can peel them before cooking for a nicer presentation but sometimes I leave the skins on for texture and nutrients.
- Use a potato ricer to ensure smooth, lump-free potatoes. A potato ricer looks like a giant garlic press and you push the cooked potatoes through tiny holes, resulting in potato strands that look like rice. Ricers are available at most kitchen stores. Do not use a mixer to beat them – they will become gluey.
- Season well! Potatoes can handle a lot of salt and seasonings such as garlic, horseradish or chopped herbs (see below for more ideas). Be sure to add butter and dairy while the potatoes are still hot so everything melts and combines easily. Add seasonings gradually and taste as you go.
Preparing Mashed Potatoes in Advance
Trying to drain and mash potatoes when you have guests waiting for dinner can be messy and cumbersome. Luckily, mashed potatoes can be prepared in advance and kept warm or re-heated. There are two methods that work well:
- Place mashed potatoes in a metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Cover loosely with foil. Stir occasionally and check moisture and seasoning before serving.
- Cooked mashed potatoes can be kept warm in a slow cooker set to ‘Low’. Check and stir on occasion, as they can become dry around the edges.
While plain mashed potatoes are a delicious on their own, they can be further enhanced with some of the following (measurements are approximate – add to taste):
- Grated horseradish – 2 to 3 Tablespoons or to taste
- ¼ cup of sour cream plus ½ chopped green onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 head roasted garlic, squeezed out of its skin
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Evaporated milk or regular milk can be substituted for the cream but the results will not be as creamy and rich.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 6 large russet potatoes (about 2-1/2 lbs.), peeled and cut into thirds
- ½ cup heavy cream (whipping cream), heated
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
- Salt, to taste
- A large stockpot with a lid
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- Water, to cover potatoes
- Potato ricer
- In a large stockpot, add potatoes, 1 Tablespoon salt and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Cover and bring water to a boil.
- Remove cover and reduce heat to medium-high. Gently boil until potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Check with a sharp knife periodically to determine tenderness.
- Drain cooked potatoes. Place two or three potato chunks in the potato ricer. Working over a large bowl, press potatoes through ricer. Repeat with all potatoes.
- Quickly add butter and cream to hot potatoes. Stir until combined and the potatoes are creamy. Add salt to taste. Add any optional seasonings and mix until incorporated.
- Serve with your favourite dishes such as braised short ribs, roast chicken or turkey with gravy.
Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!
This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.