Chef Notes: The World’s Best Mashed Potatoes

Chef Notes: The World’s Best Mashed Potatoes

You’ve made great mashed potatoes when you find yourself eating them straight from the fridge at midnight. You know the kind: they’re smooth, creamy, and buttery and, yes, perfect even when they’re cold. You’ll need just a couple of special tools. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have a ricer or food mill that’s great, but if you don’t you can use a box grater, and you’ll need a pastry cutter/blender or potato masher. The best potatoes for mashing are starchy potatoes (see my column on Starchy vs. Waxy Potatoes for more explanation) such as russet, whites, and Idaho or potatoes that are in between starchy and waxy like yellow and purple. I personally prefer Yukon Golds, a yellow potato.

Toss about eight whole, unpeeled medium potatoes (roughly tennis ball sized) and one medium celery root peeled and cut into 2” cubes into a large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover by an inch or so and about a palm full of non-iodized table salt. Throw on a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick will go through the potatoes easily. Drain and cool the potatoes until you can handle them. Leaving your potatoes whole and unpeeled will prevent them from absorbing too much water and result in dryer potatoes that are less likely to gum up while you’re grating/mashing them and more likely to absorb your flavorings. This is also the best method for preparing potatoes for potato salad.  The celery root is optional but I love the mild flavor that it adds.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, warm your additions over low heat. I use about one cup of whole milk, ½ a stick or so of butter, ¼ cup of both sour cream and mayonnaise and a couple of generous pinches of kosher salt. You can certainly substitute light versions of all of those or maybe you want to simply reduce a pint or so of chicken stock down by about half over high heat and keep it very healthy. It’s up to you. The important thing is that, whatever you’re adding, you warm it first.  This is also a good time to prepare any garnishes you want to add. I like to stir in about ½ cup of finely chopped chives but a handful of chopped parsley, dill, or tarragon is delicious too. The garnish is totally optional.

Finally, slide a paring knife just under the skin and peel the potatoes. The peel should strip away easily and the potatoes will still be very warm in the center. Then process your potatoes and celery root through your ricer or food mill or grate them using the smallest grating side of a box grater back into your large saucepan over low heat. Mix in your additions/flavorings using a pastry cutter/blender or potato masher. Don’t add it all at once. I start with about half and add in smaller increments until the desired consistency. Then stir in your garnish, if you prepped one.  Taste and adjust the salt.

This method results in great potatoes every time. They’ll be calling your name at midnight and you’ll see they’re delicious cold, wearing only a housecoat, barefoot, with only the light of the fridge to keep you company.

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Christina
    October 18, 08:38 Reply

    Great primer, thank you! And that makes so much sense about keeping the skins on while boiling.

    Quick question, though. I usually only make mashed potatoes to go with the big family meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the occasional Sunday dinner.) But I find it so hard to keep the potatoes warm while I’m doing all the other stuff (cutting meat, steaming veg, etc.) Is there a good way to keep them warm while doing the other prep, or do most people just pop the whole dish into the microwave before hitting the table?

  2. Amanda Digges
    October 18, 10:24 Reply

    Hi Christina, thanks for your question. If you follow my directions your potatoes will be hot when you’re done preparing them. Remember, you’ve got them on low heat as you’re putting in your warmed flavorings. You should be able to just turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Don’t move to your serving bowl until the last minute. If they thicken up on you just add a couple splashes or warmed up milk. Worst case, you might have to throw them in the microwave for a couple minutes. It’s always a challenge getting everything ready and keeping everything hot. Let me know how it works and good luck!

  3. Brianna
    October 24, 14:06 Reply

    I can’t wait to try this. A new technique on a loved comfort food is always welcomed. Thanks for posting!

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