Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mashed Potatoes

Continuing with the Thanksgiving theme, I thought I'd share how to make mashed potatoes. My husband often refers to these as boiled potatoes which confuses me a little but when he was growing up mashed potatoes were pushed through a ricer so they were smooth. I don't put that much effort into them.
Not all potatoes are the same, each variety has its own characteristics when making mashed potatoes. Russets mash easily and have a more crumbly, gritty texture while red or white potatoes (like Yellow Finns) will have a creamier, pasty texture. They are both great but different and require slightly different finesse.
I use a wavy potato masher. I prefer the wavy to the grided masher because the potatoes don't get stuck in the cross-sections.
Now onto the procedure. If the potato peels are smooth and clean (and the potatoes fairly firm/fresh) I scrub them and boil them, peels and all. Russets will often lose their peels after they boil but if they are getting sprouty and wrinkly, take the time to peel them. If they are firm, you can pull off the peel after they boil or mash it into the dish.
Depending on the size of the potato and the amount of time I have to boil them, I cut them or leave them whole. Obviously, smaller potatoes take less time to cook. If I do cut up the potatoes, I quarter them. Boil the potatoes in enough water or broth to cover the potatoes. My family loves potatoes boiled in corned beef broth (I strain out the seasonings so I can mash the potatoes in the remaining brother).
Boil until the potatoes are soft. Time depends on the potato and the size.
Now if using water, drain into a colander. Return potatoes to pan and mash with masher until mostly smooth. The smoothness will depend on the potato. Slowly add milk, cream or broth to the potatoes until it reaches the texture you prefer. Add butter and seasonings to taste.
If you cook the potatoes in broth, make sure the potatoes are just covered when boiling, allowing the level to drop some as they cook. Don't drain but mash potatoes in the broth. If you are concerned that there is too much broth, drain some into a container so you can add it back. Mash until desired texture. Depending on the broth, your potatoes could have enough flavor that they don't need seasonings. If they come out too dry, add a little milk or extra broth. With the corned beef broth, we leave them as they are because they are full of flavor and just a tad salty.
This is probably not a perfect description of making mashed potatoes but should help you get started. Feel free to ask questions.

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