What could be better than fluffy mashed potatoes with a flavorful marinated chicken breast on top or with a crater filled with piping hot homemade gravy? I can’t think of anything.
3/4 of a 5 lb. bag of Russet potatoes
Salt for the boiling water
4 Tablespoons butter
1 cup whole milk (can use heavy cream for richer or 2% milk for lighter versions of this recipe)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
I use most of the bag of potatoes, but reserve 4 nice big ones for baking another night. It makes enough to serve mashed as a side dish one night and then to use the remainder in a shepherds pie later in the week, serve as leftovers another night, or to add to a soup as a thickener.
Rinse then peel the potatoes. Evenly chop them into small 2 inch chunks, like little half moons, (slicing once down the potato longwise then making 1 inch thick cross cuts). They will cook evenly if they are all cut into similar sizes.
Tip: Put the cut potatoes into the pasta basket of a steamer and fill the pot with cold water. Salt the water well, you should be able to taste a bit of salt in the water, like the sea. Let the potatoes sit in the cold water for 30 minutes or for up to an hour or more if you need to work on other elements of a meal. The cold water will draw out some of the excessive starchiness (per my Mom)!
When dinner is about 25 minutes away, turn the burner on high under your potato pot. Heat without the lid until water starts to boil, then set a timer for 10 minutes, give the potatoes a little stir. Watch the heat, you may need to turn it down a bit to prevent the boiling water from streaming over the top of the pot.
Secret: Check potatoes for doneness by removing 1 potato from the water after 10 minutes in a boil, put it onto a plate and gently push a fork into the center. If the potato naturally falls apart with only a hint of convincing from the fork, you are ready to go! If it has any resistance, keep them boiling and check every 2-3 minutes from that point. It will be bout 10 minutes in a rolling boil until the potatoes are soft enough to mash.
When the potatoes are almost finished, microwave the milk for 60 seconds. Strain the potatoes and dump them back into the pot, add the heated milk (first a half a cup, then keep adding until you have the consistency of mashed you are looking for), the 4 tablespoons of butter*, a half a teaspoon or so of nutmeg (I use a nutmeg nut on a micro plane, you can keep out the nutmeg if you’d like), a couple of twists of freshly ground pepper and mash with a hand masher or push through a ricer. For airier whipped potatoes use a hand held mixer. Because you heavily salted the water, your final product will probably not need added salt, but always taste and confirm before you serve.
Once you have removed most of the lumps, keep warm or serve immediately. (a little lump here or there proves you made them from scratch!)
Trick: Generally, mashed potatoes are made as a part of a larger complex meal like at Thanksgiving or with a big roast dinner of some kind, and timing for all of the dishes can be the biggest frustration. If so, make the potatoes and you can slide them into the oven on 250 degrees, to keep them warm while you cut the meat or finish up the other components.
* I always use unsalted butter due to the fact that I bake and unsalted butter is better for baking. Also, I prefer to control the saltiness in all my recipes.
Other variations are easy to achieve, once you have the basics. For instance, you can start with red bliss potatoes* and leave on the skins creating a different taste and texture. Do you like sour cream and chives in your baked potato? If so, add a heaping tablespoon or two into your mashed when you add the milk and mix in fresh chives at the end. Voila! Exciting new twist on mashed.
*The most nutritious part of the potato is between the skin and flesh, so anytime you can keep on the skins you will retain nutrients. For mashed though, I am a purest. It is the smooth texture I am after.
Follow the directions above but also take a whole head of garlic and pour olive oil around the outside. Don’t break it down! Take the entire oil covered head of garlic and wrap it in aluminum foil tightly. Roast in an oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Pull out of the oven and cool it. Then you will be able to actually squeeze out the whole cloves and put right into the mashed potatoes. You will be amazed how sweet and smooth and light garlic is when you roast it whole!
You can add as little or as much of the head of garlic into your potatoes because depending on your taste, I would try adding half, combining it into the potatoes then giving it a taste to see if you want the remainder of the garlic or not and checking for seasoning.
Any leftover roasted cloves taste amazing on Sourdough bread spread like butter with a nice soft creamy cheese (mascarpone, cream cheese, etc)!