By: The Reluctant Gourmet™
"You Have to Eat, So Learn to Cook and Eat Well"
Homemade mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. What is better than a steaming serving of really good homemade mashed potatoes? You know what I mean—mashed potatoes that are thick and smooth and rich and buttery. You take a bite and the creamy texture and rich taste take you right back home to Mom’s cooking. Mmm-mmm.
For some of us, however, making potatoes like that is a challenge. Instead of mashed potatoes like Mom’s, they turn out tasteless, lumpy and dry. And then we resort to instant mashed potatoes, which are bland and turn out like library paste without the flavor. Or your mashed potatoes are so watery they sort of spread all over your plate—more like wallpaper paste. Ugh!
Even if you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to cooking, you can make really good homemade mashed potatoes. Choose the right potato and the right tools, and your potatoes can look and taste as wonderful as Mom’s.
Types of Potatoes
There are several different varieties of potato, and they have different characteristics. Some have more starch than others, and some have different textures. For examples, Yukon Gold potatoes are a high starch potato with a smooth texture. Russets, on the other hand, are high starch, but they have a grainy texture. The “best” mashing potato is a matter of personal preference. Experiment a little until you find the best mashing potato for you and your family. Just be aware that if you had a great success with red potatoes, you may not be able to repeat it if you use another kind of potato.
What you use to mash your potatoes with makes a difference. You may be accustomed to the slightly lumpy, classic mashed potatoes produced with a wire or stainless steel potato masher. If there are a few small lumps, at least everyone knows the potatoes are homemade. To use a potato masher, you mush up the cooked potatoes with the other ingredients using up and down and back and forth movements. It takes a little work to make really good mashed potatoes with a potato masher.
Some people prefer to use a potato ricer. It makes smoother mashed potatoes. With a ricer, you mush up the potatoes using mostly an up and down motion, forcing the spuds through the holes in the ricer until all the lumps are broken up. Many people swear that a ricer is the only way to make mashed potatoes.
Some people—including those of us who are too lazy to work a potato masher or ricer—like to use an electric mixer. A mixer produces good whipped potatoes. They may be a little dry because a lot of air gets incorporated into the potatoes. That’s why purists scorn the mixer in favor of mashing potatoes by hand.
In order to make good mashed potatoes, you have to cook them first. And even before you put the potatoes in a pot, you have to decide whether to peel them or not.
Peeled potatoes produce smoother, creamier mashed potatoes without bits of skin in them. They have a uniformly white color.
On the other hand, when you peel potatoes, you throw away a lot of the vitamins with the peel. Unpeeled mashed potatoes are more visually “interesting” with those bits of peel throughout, and they have a bit more texture, as well as lots more vitamins.
After you decide whether or not to peel your potatoes, you are ready to cook them. Put the potatoes in a pan of cold water, and bring it to a boil. If you boil the water first, the potatoes kind of seal themselves when you put them in, and they don’t cook right for mashing.
Use the best ingredients you can when mashing the potatoes. Yes, you can make light, airy, very good and low fat potatoes by mashing with chicken broth. But they won’t begin to compare to the creamy texture and buttery flavor you’ll get by using real butter and milk or cream.
Additions to Your Mashed Potatoes
Once you’ve mastered making really good homemade mashed potatoes, you can add things to your potatoes for flavor, texture and interest. Some of the things you can add while you are mashing the potatoes are:
Enjoy experimenting with adding different things. You’ll find combinations that you and your family love. And in a few years, your kids will be trying to make mashed potatoes “just like Mom’s.”
Copyright © 2007 The Reluctant Gourmet™
The Reluctant Gourmet, created a web site back in 1997 as a hobby to assist other novice cooks who may find the art of cooking a little daunting. As an ex-Wall Street broker and Stay-at-Home Dad, I try to explore cooking from a different perspective. Visit http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/ for more tips, techniques and recipes.