Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

I always thought it would be silly to sit down and write a recipe for mashed potatoes, but I figured right before Thanksgiving would be as good a time as any.  I grew up watching my grandma make them, and I guess I just continued the tradition.  She made the best mashed potatoes.  I know, I know...your grandma probably made the best too.  I'll let you continue to live in your dream world, but my grandma really was the best.  I kid, I kid!  Your grandma's potatoes were probably equally delicious. 

One big reason a recipe is hard to write is that uniformity is really hard with mashed potatoes, because there is no way that all of your potatoes will ever be the exact same size.  I keep the same base each time for my mashed potatoes, but I just continue to add each ingredient to taste.  So keep that in mind if you decide to try this recipe.  You must conform it to your taste, it's a must-must.  But I do have a few tips for the perfect creamy mashed potatoes.  So here we go...

Tip #1:  Make sure to dice your potatoes the same size as much as possible.  They will cook more evenly and you won't have as many lumps.  Lumps are the fallen angel of mashed potato heaven.  I also have people ask me which types of potatoes to use.  I always use Russets or Yukon Gold potatoes.  I find that red potatoes are too gummy for my liking, but russets and yukon golds are light and fluffy!

 Tip #2:  Make sure to place your diced potatoes in cold water.  This will help them to come up to boiling temperature gradually.  Again cooking evenly = no lumps.

Tip #3:  Place 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar + 1 Tbsp olive oil in your water.  I got this trick from another lovely blog, and I'm not exactly sure how or why it works, but it does.  And never fear, the potatoes will not come away with one single hint of vinegar flavor.  You should try this sometime, but if you don't trust me (which you should, I would never lead you in the wrong direction) try it after Thanksgiving.  You know, sometime when all you have to feed is a toothless toddler who doesn't care because they just love mashed potatoes.

I know it looks murky, but don't worry!

Tip #4:  Boil the potatoes until they are all falling apart.  I know popular belief is to boil them until they are "fork tender" but I like to boil them until each piece falls apart with the touch of a fork.  Like imagine that the fork is the hot senior football player and the potatoes are the giggly freshman girls.  They should just melt with one tough.  How's that for a metaphor?? :)  A lot of people also worry that this will make for watery mashed potatoes, but we'll take care of that in tip five.  This ensures that I will have no chance for lumps.  Plus I sort of make a game out of finding the biggest piece of potato left and making sure it is fork tender.  I know.  I'm weird like that.

Tip #5:  Once you drain the potatoes place them back in the hot pot.  The potatoes will cook just a bit more and all the moisture left in the potatoes will evaporate.  Leaving you with a perfect base for fluffy goodness.

Tip #6: Once you have your potatoes minus all the moisture, dump them into your mixing bowl.  The mixing bowl should already have one stick of butter plus some salt/black pepper.  This is also the point I put the garlic in too, so it gets all warm and yummy.  I have vowed to try it with roasted garlic someday.  Sounds delicious!

Tip #7: Turn on your mixer and try to get out as many lumps as possible.  If you followed all of the steps there shouldn't be very many at all, but sometimes these things just happen, not sure why.  Add in the sour cream and mix again.  If the potatoes aren't creamy enough, now would be the time to slowly add in the milk.

Tip #8: A lot of people put a couple of slices of butter on top of the potatoes so they melt down over them.  I happen to like to press small squares of butter all over in the potatoes, so not only do they melt, but sometimes you can find a nice buttery surprise with a bite. 

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Makes 8 servings
Printable Recipe

12 medium russet potatoes (about the size of your fist), peeled and diced
1 stick butter, room temp is better
1/4 cup sour cream
splash of milk
Seasoned salt
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
2-4 Tbsp butter, cubed

**Note: I use unsalted butter so that I can control my salt content.  Please keep this in mind, add in the extra salt gradually to taste.

Peel and dice potatoes and place in cold water.  Bring water to a boil, add some kosher salt (an extra opportunity to season the potatoes).  Boil until potatoes are fork tender.  I let mine go until they completely fall apart with each poke of the fork.  Drain potatoes and place back in the hot pot.  Cook on medium for a few minutes, stirring constantly.  This will help evaporate any leftover water so your potatoes don't end up runny.  Runny potatoes are a big problem!  Combine potatoes, butter, garlic, sour cream. salt, seasoned salt, and pepper to taste.  Mix on low until large lumps are gone.  Add milk until potatoes are at desired consistency.  Press down cubed butter into the potatoes and sprinkle with extra seasoned salt.  The butter will melt and make them extra delicious!

Optional Add-Ins:
1 clove garlic, grated
cream cheese
shredded cheese, any kind
green onion
parmesan cheese
carmelized onions
chipotle peppers
corn (because if you're like me, it gets mixed together anyway!)
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