Who’s Afraid of Mashed Potatoes?

pinit fg en rect gray 28 Whos Afraid of Mashed Potatoes?

potatoes with tobacco onions web e1321835216828 Whos Afraid of Mashed Potatoes?Although it’s easy to make perfect mashed potatoes every time, many cooks face this particular culinary technique with trepidation. There is nothing like gluey, runny mashed potatoes to ruin your confidence as a cook. And if this happens to you during the preparation of an important meal, well the damage to your confidence may be even more long lasting.

potatos whole web e1350946670733 Whos Afraid of Mashed Potatoes?I am not afraid of mashed potatoes. I owe this to my mother, who, in an age of stay-at-home moms, decided that she would instead become the CFO of a major wine distributor in Seattle. This meant that from the second grade on, Monday through Thursday, I made dinner for the family. Mashed potatoes and pan gravy were almost always on the menu. Although no one ever complained if my mashed potatoes were gluey or runny, I nonetheless learned through trial and error and many years of Zen-like concentration to make them perfect every time.

potato peelings web e1350946693281 Whos Afraid of Mashed Potatoes?LunaCafe’s Never Fail Mashed Potatoes Tips & Tricks

If I had a secret to making great mashed potatoes when I was a kid, it was to time them so that they were the last thing I put on the table. If the potatoes were done too early, I drained them, put them back in the pan with the butter, covered them with a lid and a couple of kitchen towels, and left them on the warm stove top. Just before serving, I threw in salt and pepper, mashed them quickly with a potato masher, and then drizzled in just enough milk to get the right consistency. After I scooped them into the serving bowl, I added a tablespoon of soft butter on top, which melted immediately. I learned that visual trick from the “fancy” neighbor lady, who set an elegant Sunday dinner table.


Today I understand a bit more about potatoes and why they act the way they do when cooked and mashed. Here are a few things that are helpful to consider.

 

  • Select large, high-quality, local potatoes. Potatoes should be firm and smooth with no discolored or greenish patches and no sprouts.
  • Store potatoes in a cool (preferably 45º-50º), dark location. Below 40º, potatoes begin to develop a sweet taste, so do not store in the refrigerator. Potatoes stored at room temperature should be used within a week.
  • Select potatoes with high starch and low moisture content, such as Russet Burbank or Yukon Gold potatoes.
  • Peel, then cut potatoes into fairly uniform 1½-inch chunks, so that they will cook evenly.
  • Always put peeled potatoes immediately in cold water to cover to prevent discoloration.
  • Always begin cooking potatoes in cold water.
  • Boil only until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Longer boiling will water-log the potatoes and make a liquid mash.
  • When tender, drain potatoes immediately in a colander.
  • There is usually no need to do this, but if your drained potatoes seem a little wet, either put them back in the empty pan and on the still warm stovetop for a few minutes, the pan covered with a couple layers of paper towels to absorb the steam, being careful not to scorch them; or put them on an edged baking sheet and bake at 350º for 15 minutes.
  • Put your additional ingredients in a large mixing bowl and let warm to room temperature while the potatoes are boiling.
  • Quickly put cooked potatoes through a potato ricer, mash with a new age potato masher (Available from Oxo and Rosle, these newer mashers have a flat face, a grid pattern and crisp edges where the potato meets the masher. They easily mimic the extrusion effect of a ricer and produce fluffy mashed potatoes with minimum physical exertion), or whip with a hand held mixer, adding only enough additional liquid (milk or cream) to create a light but not wet consistency. It should take no more than two minutes to mash your potatoes.
  • Overly vigorous or lengthy mashing or whipping can cause your mashed potatoes to become gluey. NEVER use a processor or blender to whip potatoes.
  • Serve potatoes immediately after whipping; or spoon into a serving bowl, cover, and keep warm in a 200º oven for up to 1 hour.
  • Cooked potato dishes do not freeze well. The water in the potato separates from the starch, making the thawed and heated potato dish watery.

 

Traditional mashed potatoes with butter, milk, salt, and pepper are one of the world’s great dishes, and I could eat them every day. But it’s also fun to push the boundaries of the concept and see where it can take you.


 

I developed the following two recipes to serve with Southwest-style Smokey Chipotle Meatloaf. (That recipe will post on Friday.)

Potato Lead Web Whos Afraid of Mashed Potatoes?

 Potato, Yam, Garlic & Gorgonzola Mashers


 

This orange-hued, subtly sweet, mashed potato and yam dish is a natural on a Southwest menu.
 

four 12-ounce russet potatoes (2½-3 pounds after peeling)   

10 ounce yam (about 8-16 ounces after peeling)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, room temperature

½-¾ cup whole milk, room temperature

½ cup finely crumbled Gorgonzola (or ¾ cup for a more pronounced Gorgonzola flavor)

2 large cloves garlic, minced or peeled

2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Peel the potatoes and yam, and then cut into 1½-inch chunks.
  2. Put potato and yam chunks into a large saucepan or stovetop casserole and cover with cold water.
  3. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for about 15 minutes, just until the potatoes test tender when pierced with a fork.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add the butter, the lower quantity of milk, Gorgonzola, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  5. Drain potato and yam chunks in a colander and then immediately add to the mixing bowl with the other ingredients.
  6. Whip with a hand held mixer until smooth, light, and fluffy, adding a little more milk if necessary to achieve a fluffy consistency.
  7. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as necessary.
  8. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Tillamook and Sour Cream 2 Whos Afraid of Mashed Potatoes?

Potato, Yam, Garlic, & Smoked Cheddar Gratin


 

This dish utilizes the similar ingredients and process of Potato, Yam, Garlic & Gorgonzola Mashers but enables you to prepare the dish ahead and reheat when needed.

 

 four 12-ounce russet potatoes (about 2½ pounds after peeling)   

10 ounce yam (about 8 ounces after peeling)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

½-¾ cup Mexican crema (or crème fraiche or sour cream)

2 cups grated, aged, smoked cheddar (such as Tillamook Smoked Cheddar, Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar, or unsmoked Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar)

½ cup finely grated parmesan

2 large cloves garlic, peeled, minced or pressed

2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Peel the potatoes and yam, and then cut into 1½-inch chunks.
  2. Put potato and yam chunks into a large saucepan or stovetop casserole and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for about 15 minutes, just until the potatoes test tender when pierced with a fork.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add the butter, crèma, cheddar cheese, parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  4. Drain potato and yam chunks in a colander and then immediately add to the mixing bowl with the other ingredients.
  5. Whip with a hand held mixer until smooth, light, and fluffy, using a little more crèma if necessary to achieve a fluffy consistency.
  6. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as necessary.
  7. Spoon the mashed potatoes into a buttered 6- to 8-cup-capacity baking dish.
  8. Bake at 350º in the upper third of the oven for about 30-40 minutes (if starting with room temperature gratin), until heated through. Broil briefly to lightly brown the top.
  9. Serve hot.

 

Serves 4-6.

Blue Dish Hot  Whos Afraid of Mashed Potatoes?

Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

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  18. What is the topping for the potatoes? In the photo it looks as though they are topped with a dried onion mix? Please share.

    • Oh MUCH better than dried onion soup mix. :-) These are called Frizzled Onions or Tobacco Onions. From the explanation below: Thinly slice a halved, peeled onion, heat about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil in a saute pan until it sizzles brightly when you flick a drop of water on it, and then add about 1/4 of the onions at a time and stir a little while frying them just until golden-brown. Don’t take so far that they taste burnt. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on layers of paper towels to drain. Continue with the remainder of the onions. If you’re lucky, you may be able to keep a small handful of these away from those who insist on eating them as quickly as they are fried.

  19. I have lost a recipe that included mashed potatoes chocolate & dried fruit made into a mold and served with cream, do you know of it? I hesitate to experimetn as quantites are vital.

  20. My goodness, that simple? Thank you! I can surely wait for the pic display which I’m sure will be lovely.

  21. Fantastic. Simple question though … how does one get the incredibly crispy, brown onion strings? Olive oil? Butter? Skillet? or Oven?

    • Thank you, Kate! I meant to do a quick post on Frizzled Onions (also called Tobacco Onions) and instead got side-tracked on the Ultimate Chocolate Pudding research and testing for LunaCafe’s February All Chocolate All Month. I’ll try to get this posted with prep pictures. Basically though, in case you can’t wait, thinly slice a halved, peeled onion, heat about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil in a saute pan until it sizzles brightly when you flick a drop of water on it, and then add about 1/4 of the onions at a time and stir a little while frying them just until golden-brown. Don’t take so far that they taste burnt. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on layers of paper towels to drain. Continue with the remainder of the onions. If you’re lucky, you may be able to keep a small handful of these away from those who insist on eating them as quickly as they are fried. :-)

  22. this looks sooooo goooood! i am a big big lover of mashed potatoes and have tried mashing them with yams but never with gorgonzola. i bet it tastes great! am going to give it a try next time i go to the store! thank u for sharing!

    • Thank you, AZilea! If you love gorgonzola, you can add even more than is specified in the recipoe. MauiJim doesn’t like any of the blue cheeses, so I purposely used a small amount so that he might not notice. Of course, he DID notice — but grumbled only a little :-)

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