Saturday, December 08, 2007

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

I was raised on mashed potatoes. Except for those rare occasions when we had pasta in the form of spaghetti or macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes were on our dinner plates every day. It was one of the very few dishes that my mother made well. I grew up watching her make them. She made it seem so easy. Boil the potatoes, then mash them up with butter and milk.

When I moved out on my own, I almost never ate mashed potatoes because I just couldn’t make them. They always came out either soupy or lumpy. There was no happy medium. I gave up and started making baked potatoes instead. Except for the time that I left a couple in the oven too long and they exploded, I never had a problem.

A must have been raised on mashed potatoes too because when I gave her the choice of either baked or mashed for our Wooden Spoon Thanksgiving, she chose mashed. My heart sank. Then I hit the internet. Surely I could find instructions on making mashed potatoes. I happened upon a recipe by Martha Stewart that contained detailed instructions. Another plus was the fact that the recipe called for either milk or cream. Most recipes use milk. I don’t drink milk. But I do use Half ‘n’ Half in my coffee which I felt would be an acceptable substitute for cream.

I’m going to admit right up front that I did everything wrong in making this recipe. I used a potato masher instead of an electric mixer or ricer. I used salted butter instead of unsalted. I didn’t warm the milk. I added the butter and the milk together instead of separately. I mashed the potatoes and the butter and the milk all at once instead of in three steps. I used canned pepper and nutmeg instead of freshly grated. And yet, despite all of those “mistakes”, these were the best mashed potatoes I’ve had since I lived at home.

I was hesitant to add the nutmeg. I wanted my potatoes to taste like potatoes, not nutmeg. But in this case, the nutmeg enhances the flavor rather than overpowers it. Best of all, I can finally have mashed potatoes with my dinners again.

Verdict: Yum! This one’s a keeper!

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
(source:Yahoo! Food)

2 pounds russet, Yukon gold, or long white potatoes
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
1 cup milk, or cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Peel and cut potatoes into 1 1/2 –inch-thick slices. Place in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water; add 1 tablespoon salt, bring to a simmer. If using a potato ricer, fill another saucepan with water; place over low heat. Keep potatoes at a low simmer until a knife slips in and out easily. Drain potatoes in a colander. Place mild in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.

If using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, proceed to last paragraph. If using a potato ricer, place a heat-proof bowl or top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Press hot, drained potatoes through ricer into bowl.

Stir potatoes with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 1 minute. Using a whisk, incorporate butter. Drizzle in hot milk, whisking continuously. Add pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste; whisk to combine. Serve immediately.

For the electric-mixer method, transfer hot, drained potatoes to bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed, until most lumps have disappeared, about 1 minute. Add butter; mix until blended. On low speed, add hot milk in a slow stream, then add pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Mix to combine.

Compost: potato peels

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