For Thanksgiving 2014, I decided that the new recipes would focus on learning how to cook potatoes really, really well. So many people aren't eating potatoes anymore but I look at it a little differently. Sure, forgo forgettable potatoes (and cupcakes). But otherwise, especially for special occasions like Thanksgiving, make really, really good potatoes that are worth the carbs and calories. That's my goal! Let's get to cooking!
We all love cooking secrets, right? Well, there are three secrets to making rich and creamy mashed potatoes and best of all, they "cost" nothing in effort, time and hard cash. There are two extra steps and for once, the truism that you "get what you pay for" is false. Here, these mashed potato tricks are almost too good to be true and they're practically free.
Effort-wise – Easy to remember & easy to do.
Time-wise – Adds only an extra couple of minutes.
Cost-wise – No special ingredients, no special tools, no extra cost.
Okay, the three secrets.
Secret #1: Before cooking the potatoes, rinse them under running water to remove the starch that causes gumminess.
Secret #2: After cooking and draining the potato slices, put them back into the hot pan to cook off some of the water left in the potatoes.
Secret #3: No secret at all, really: plenty of butter and cream. The secret is to add butter and cream in the right balance, not too much, not too little.
Now, please know, these are "not" diet potatoes, these are an indulgence any day of the week and frankly, the calories and Weight Watchers points add up way higher than I guessed they would. But that's why I feel so strongly that the extra steps are important. If we're going to eat mashed potatoes, they should be really good! worth eating!! not just throw-away calories!!! Instead, too often, mashed potatoes are dense and heavy or worse, soft and gummy – either way, not worth the carbs or the calories.
These Rich & Creamy Mashed Potatoes are worth every calorie.
RECIPE for RICH & CREAMY MASHED POTATOES
Time to table: 45 minutes
Per pound of potatoes, easily multiplied
(each pound of uncooked potatoes yields about 2 cups mashed potatoes)
1 pound Yukon Gold or russet potatoes
Cold water, for cooking, enough to cover plus 1-inch
1 - 3 teaspoons table salt per four cups of cooking water
6 tablespoons cream
3 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste
COOK & DRAIN Scrub the potatoes well. If using Yukon Gold or another soft-skinned potatoes, peel if you like; if using russet, do peel off the skins. Cut potatoes into pieces of similar size. SECRET #1: Remove the starch before cooking, there are actually two ways to do this. (1) Drop the potato pieces into cold water as they're prepped, then drain before cooking. (2) Rinse the potato pieces under running water a few at a time, this is the one I use. Now place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, then stir in table salt. Cover and bring to a boil on high, then reduce the heat to maintain a nice easy boil until the potatoes are tender and a knife moves easily through the center, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes.
WARM CREAM & BUTTER (Timing wise, you'll want these warm as soon as the potatoes are dried.) While the potatoes cook, in a small pan, gently melt butter, cream and salt together, keep warm.
DRY THE POTATOES SECRET #2: Return the potato slices to the hot pot, turn the heat to medium and let the excess water cook off for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
MASH THE POTATOES Mash the potatoes (see TIPS on what to use) until smooth all by themselves, no butter, no cream. SECRET #3: With a spatula, slowly turn the hot cream-butter-salt mixture into the potatoes. Taste and adjust the seasonings to taste.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
POTATO VARIETIES People's preferences vary. Some like Yukon gold potatoes for mashed potatoes, others like russet potatoes (also called "baking" or Idaho potatoes, they're the ones with the heavy, rough skins). I'm good with either one. For this recipe, do avoid the small red potatoes (some times called "new" potatoes) whose creamier texture doesn't have enough starch to mash well. If you're using a food mill or a ricer, you'll probably want to peel the potatoes before cooking. Many people, including me, like the texture of the skins. A ricer does separate the peel from the potatoes but the skins clog up the ricer, slowing the process down.
SALT It's important to salt the cooking water well because that's the flavor that will penetrate the potato flesh as the potatoes cook. Since we eat practically zero processed food in this house, I don't worry about liberally salting our food; a good friend whose culinary judgment I trust tells me she finds my recipes "salty". So use your judgment here, based on what's right for you and your family.
POTATO-MASHING TOOLS Cook's Illustrated is very high on (1) a food mill (which I haven't used) and (2) a potato ricer (which I have and like but wouldn't recommend running out to buy unless you're unhappy with the texture of hand mashed or mixer-mashed). Cook's Illustrated is less high on a hand masher (my favorite) and a hand-held mixer (I use this for large batches of potatoes at Thanksgiving, say) and is absolutely adamant about not using a food processor (I agree!).
WHY WARM THE CREAM & BUTTER? When warm, the cream and butter will be absorbed into the potato flesh, making them rich and unctuous. In contrast, cold cream and butter will simply attach itself to the outer surface of the (admittedly small) pieces of potato. (Besides, who wants to eat cold mashed potatoes? Warm cream and butter help keep the potatoes hot!)
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