While a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes might not qualify as a complete meal (although, I have been known to devour it as such in the past), it does make a great complimentary side dish. And really, what is an entree without it's perfect side dish?
I mean, it's like Batman without Robin.
Now, for some of you, giving a "how-to" on making mashed potatoes may seem like an insult. You've probably been making perfect, creamy, buttery spuds for years, just like your mommy and grand mommy used to.
Me? Not so much.
In all honesty, I used to really STINK at making Mashed Potatoes. Like, until the past year. Sure, like most people, I grew up eating mashed potatoes that my mom made. The term "mashed potato" being used quite loosely here. Words like "glue" or "cement" might make a better description. Now, I love my mom, and she makes many great meals. But, it seems she has passed the recessive "crappy mashed potato" gene to me.
What can I say? It's a curse.
But, after many years of research, trial, error and plenty of bad batches of mashers, I think I've overcome my spud destiny. I've finally settled into a good, consistent technique that turns out yummy mashed potatoes every time.
Let me lay it out for you, step by step:
Start With Good Ingredients
PotatoesI never knew that certain potatoes make better mashed potatoes. Some people just pick potatoes at random. My one friend swears by Yukon Golds. For a while, I was a tried and true Russet potato girl. But I now will only use Little Red Potatoes (also known as "Mashers" - should have been my first clue). I don't know if they have a different proportion of starch or something, but they, hands down, turn out creamier potatoes. For 4-6 servings, I use roughly 6-8 avergage-sized red potatoes. For a larger dinner party, double it.
ButterI know healthy is all the rage now a days, and I am all about being healthy. But mashed potatoes need butter. That's all there is to it. You can substitute margarine or Smart Balance or omit it all together, but you will absolutely lose flavor and texture. For 4-6 servings, as stated above, I use at least 3-4 TBS of butter. If you want richer potatoes, use more. I'm not here to judge.
MilkThis helps add to the creaminess. I use my good judgement, but for 4-6 servings, I splash about 1/4 cup of fat-free skim milk into my potatoes. If you want a richer batch, use whole milk, half-n-half or heavy cream. Too much milk makes your potatoes too thin, so if you are worried about how it will turn out, put the milk in a measuring cup and slowly pour it in until the desired texture.
SaltSalt brings out flavor, but YOU DO NOT NEED MUCH. Most times, I don't add salt to the main batch at all, and I just let people season to their liking. But if you would rather season the main batch yourself, use a pinch. Literally, just a pinch.
Those 4 ingredients are the only ones I use to make my mashed potatoes, and they turn out perfect every time. If you like to spice things up a bit, here are a few "Steph Approved" add-ins:
Additional Add-insGarlic (powder or minced), sour cream, chives, black pepper, goat cheese, cheddar cheese.
Cook The Potatoes Correctly
I can't tell you how easy it is to overcook or undercook a pot of potatoes, ruining any chance you have at a decent batch of mashed potatoes. Here are the 4 steps you need to take for good mashed potatoes:
PeelCompletely peel all the potatoes, washing off any bits of dirt you find.
DiceDon't dice to small. I made this mistake a lot before I knew better. I cut the potatoes into 1 inch cubes. No smaller, no bigger.
BoilFollow this order carefully ~ Place the potatoes into your pot, then fill with water enough to cover the potatoes.. Place on high heat. Once the water begins to boil, set a timer and boil for 15 minutes.
DrainDrain in a colander over the sink.
Use The Right Technique
There are tons of philosophies on how to actually mash the potatoes. Some say that a potato ricer is the best kitchen tool to use. I do not have one of these. Others swear by using a hand-held potato masher. I do have one of these, but I personally do not like the texture it creates. If you like a courser texture, then please use a hand-held masher.
I prefer using a hand mixer.
This is controversial, as many cooks will say that hand mixers over-work the potatoes, releasing too much starch, and making for a bad texture. I have found it makes for a smooth and creamy consistency. Try each tool out and see what works best for you.
Here is the technique I use:
PotPlace the potatoes back into the cooking pot, but off the hot burner
ButterAdd the butter so it begins to melt.
I take the hand mixer and semi-mash by hand the big chunks.
MixOnce the mixture is semi-mashed, I turn the mixer on and and beat the potatoes until they are smooth
AddAdd the milk and mix it in. If you are adding salt or any other additional add-ins, add it now.
Taste and AdjustBefore serving the potatoes, try a small spoonful. Make sure the texture is to your liking. Make sure the levels of ingredients are correct (too bland? Add 1 TBS butter and a dash of salt. Too salty or buttery? Add a splash of milk to even it out).
There you have it! Perfect mashed potatoes every time!
I'd love to hear your method for mashers. What add-ins do you use? What success have you found with techniques or ingredients? Please feel free to leave a comment and share your wisdom.
- 6-8 Red Potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1/2 stick (4 TBS) Butter
- 1/4 cup of Milk
- Pinch of Salt
- (Add in's additional)
1) Place potatoes in pot. Fill with water to cover 1 inch above the potatoes. Heat on high. Once water begins to boil, set timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, drain potatoes in a colander over the sink. Return potatoes to cooking pot, but take off of heat.
2) Add butter so it has a chance to melt.
3) Hand mash the large chunks of potato into smaller chunks manually with hand mixer. Once the potatoes are chunked smaller, turn on hand mixer and beat until creamy
4) Add milk, salt (if desired) and add ins (if desired).
5) Taste and adjust, then serve and enjoy!