Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

Some recipes are so elemental that I do not think of including them on this blog. However, our family keeps growing and we must spread the basic cooking knowledge that we Magidows take for granted to the newer members of our flock. Hence, a step-by-step recipe for fluffy mashed potatoes, which Dan has been called upon to supply for his family's Thanksgiving in my absence. There are many ways to make mashed potatoes, but this is my way.

This makes a LOT of mashed potatoes.

1 5-lb. bag of russet potatoes
1 stick of salted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces
~1/4 to 1/3 c. half & half
Lawry's seasoned salt
Ground white pepper (note to Dan: in the brass pepper grinder)
Ground nutmeg (optional)

  • Peel the potatoes. Keep the peeled potatoes in a bowl of water while you are working so that they don't turn brown.
  • Quarter the potatoes--they should be big chunks that can still fit into the potato ricer. 
  • Place into a large pot and fill with cold water until the potatoes are just submerged. Starting them in cold water allows them to cook thoroughly without falling apart at the edges or becoming watery before the centers are cooked.
  •  Do not add more water than needed, or you will unnecessarily increase cooking time.
  • Place the lid on the pot, but leave it ajar so that steam can escape.
  • Bring to a boil, and as soon as it boils, remove the lid and lower the heat so that it stays at a low boil (otherwise the pot will boil over).
  • It is hard to predict how long they will need to cook, but at 20 min, check them and see if they are tender. It will probably take 30 min or so for a large pot.
  • How to tell if they are done: 1) the edges of the potato chunks will start to become indistinct 2) when you pierce the potato with a knife, it encounters no resistance and the chunk will crack apart.
  • Note: if they completely fall apart, then you have overcooked them and the mashed potatoes will be watery and less delicious.
  • Drain the potatoes.
  • While they are still hot, squeeze them through the ricer with the insert with the smallest holes.
  • Rice them into the biggest bowl, because you will need the space to mix them later.
  • While you are working, add in the butter, cut into chunks, so that the butter is melted by the hot potatoes as you go.
  •  Do not question  the amount of butter--for a Thanksgiving dinner this will give you the most decadent result.
  • Gently mix the potatoes so that the butter is mixed in, but do not overmix or they will become gummy.
  • If the potatoes are too dry, add in small amounts of  half and half. You may only need a couple of tablespoons--don't overdo it! This amount is hard to predict because potatoes vary in their moisture content, and the cooking method has an effect, and also the butter will add a lot of liquid.
  • Taste and decide if they need more salt (this will depend on how salty the butter is). If it needs more salt, add Lawry's seasoned salt. Also add a generous amount of ground white pepper.
  • The key is to mix as little as possible so you can keep the fluffy texture. Don't pack it down solid when you place it in your transit/storage vessel.
If you need to reheat, microwave for 2-3 minutes.

For gravy, I find that unless you can pull off a true pan gravy from the turkey drippings, you are better off with packet gravy. The liquid stuff in jars or cans doesn't seem to be as good as good ol' packet gravy.

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