Monday, November 21, 2011

Perfect Homestyle Mashed Potatoes

I am genetically cursed to make horrible, pasty mashed potatoes. My mom was once in charge of making the mashed potatoes for a family Thanksgiving and they turned out like thick, heavy glue. She's never lived it down. I followed in her footsteps for many years, with mashed potatoes (along with rice and scrambled eggs) being completely beyond my grasp. No matter what I tried, the starches in the potatoes would thicken to the point of rendering the abused spuds inedible.

Finally, an episode of Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis opened my eyes to the error of my ways. Her advice was simple, start with cold water and salt it like the sea. Somewhere else along the way, I also learned that the starch structure of Yukon Gold potatoes makes them ideal for mashed potatoes. I also love to leave the skin on for more of a home style mashed potato and the skins of the Yukon Gold are thin enough to do this right.

This is how I like to make my mashed potatoes. I never use a recipe and adjust by texture and flavor, so I'm guessing at amounts here.

Ingredients

Yukon Gold Potatoes

For the Potatoes

  • Yukon Gold potatoes (roughly 1 per person, depending on size)
  • 2-3T Kosher salt
  • Unsalted Butter (I'm guessing roughly 1/2T per potato, when I cook a full 5lb bag, I use a whole stick)
  • Milk (whatever you have on hand, I use whole milk for Thanksgiving -- hey it's once a year, right?)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

For the Roasted Garlic

  • 1-2 Heads Roasted Garlic
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Preparation

Roasted Garlic

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. 
  2. Slide the pointed tip off of the entire garlic bulb (you should be able to see the cut surface of the individual cloves).
  3. Place entire garlic bulb on a small piece of foil, cut side up, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Close the foil into a packet around the garlic and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
  5. Allow the bulb to cool and squeeze the caramelized garlic out of the bulb.

Mashed Potatoes

  1. Fill a large stockpot full of water and add the salt,  1T at a time (taste the water after each addition, remember, should taste salty like sea water)
  2. Wash the potatoes, removing and bad spots and dice into a 1/2-inch dice.
  3. Add the cut potatoes to the cold water.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat slightly to prevent the water from boiling over.
  5. Potatoes are done once they fall off a knife or fork.
  6. Drain the potatoes and add them back to the same pan.
  7. Add butter.
  8. Add the roasted garlic.
  9. Add milk, use your judgement, start with a little and mash the potatoes, add more if the potatoes are still too thick. Be careful not to over mash, it can make the starches gummy.
  10. Taste them at this point and add and salt or pepper if needed.
In any meal, mashed potatoes should be one of the last items you prepare for the best results.