Monday, November 12, 2007

Thanksgiving Countdown...The Best Mashed Potatoes

The next few posts will be all about the Turkey Day with tried and true recipes to help you prepare.

Today... The Best Mashers!

For 4 servings, plus some left-overs

This mashed potato recipe is all about the potatoes (well, and the butter, cream, and salt mmmm…). I’ve outlined some tricks and secrets for the best mashed potatoes your Thanksgivings have ever seen.

• Since this recipe is all about the potato, let’s make sure we get the right ones. Yukon potatoes are known for being moist and creamy yielding velvety mashed potatoes, but a little too waxy. Russets are naturally mealier because their cells separate when cooked and result in dryer mashes potatoes. But when the two are mixed they become the perfect result.

• We make sure to never let the potatoes reach a full boil during cooking which will break the potatoes apart, creating waterlogged results. The lovely salted water should only gently simmer at all times.

• After the potatoes are cooked to fork tender, we drain the potatoes through a colander and then spread them out on a sheet pan. Throw them in the oven for 2 minutes to steam out the excess water from around and inside the potatoes.

• One more trick, and possibly the most important, is processing the potatoes through a food mill versus a Kitchen Aid or food processor. The potatoes will be airy and fluffy without being overworked which makes the potatoes gluey and pasty. Check out Sur La Table for food mills or even

So let’s make sure you have all the equipment together before starting; a colander, food mill, and sheet pan (or large sauté pan).

4 Large Yukon Potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 Russet Potato, peeled and quartered
1 Pint Cream
4 T Butter, softened

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.

Place the yukons in a 6-quart pot, or a pot that will slightly crowd the potatoes. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by one inch. Add one tablespoon of salt. In another pot, do the same with the russet potatoes and add 1/2 tablespoon of salt. It is important to cook the potatoes separately because they will be done at different times.

Place the pots of potatoes and water on the stove and turn the heat on high. As soon as the water looks like it’s going to boil, turn it way down to barely a simmer. Let’s call it a “shimmer”. Taste the water for salt. It should taste like a salty soup. If it needs more salt, add now.

In about ten minutes, probe the potatoes with a fork. You want them cooked all the way through. If they are still a little hard, continue to cook. When they are fork tender, you are now ready to carefully remove the pot from the heat and pour everything through a colander. Be careful for the steam.

Place the cooked and strained potatoes onto a sheet pan and pop into the oven for 2 minutes.

Once you’ve removed the potatoes form the oven, you’re ready to process them through the food mill. Place the food mill over the taller of your two pots you just cooked the potatoes in. Careful not to dump all the potatoes at once through the mill, but a few pieces at a time, mill them, turning clockwise and every now and then reversing to help little bits through to the pot underneath.

Once all the potatoes have been milled through, scald your cream. This means to warm the cream in a pan on the stove, but be very careful not to let it boil over. That is a huge mess! Add half of the cream to the potatoes and half of your softened butter. Carefully, fold in the ingredients, just until everything has been absorbed. Taste for salt. Add more if necessary, which should be the case.

[At this point, you may cover the potatoes with parchment and set aside if you’re not ready to serve them. The great thing about this is they can be made an hour or so ahead of time allowing you to finish other things for dinner. When you are ready, simply re-warm the rest of the cream and butter and add to the potato pot over a warm burner. The more you stir the potatoes, the stiffer their outcome will be, so take care to not over-agitate them. But note that more moisture will have evaporated with more time sitting, so you may need to add more cream and butter.]

If you're immediately serving the potatoes after milling, add as much cream and butter that suits your taste.

They are now ready to serve!


Anonymous said...

Yukon + Russet...such a great idea! What are your thoughts on making the potatoes well ahead of time and keeping warm in a slow cooker (crock-pot) on low then adding more cream/butter just before serving. Will that kill the recipe...fluffiness and moisture?

Chef Liz Bills said...

Hi there,
Unfortunately, the crock-pot method will eventually turn your potatoes into "mush-town". Unless you are the pro slow cooker and can perfect your cooking time to exactness, the potato is not one to play with. The purpose of this recipe is to stretch the beauty of the potato with the least amount of effort it can give, leaving you with an un-agitated beautiful pile o'love. The best meal will always be the most fresh. :)