As I have written elsewhere, my family ate lots of potatoes. If not at every meal, we had them almost every day—in soups, stews, pot roasts, pancakes, bread and salads or by themselves boiled, fried, scalloped or mashed. I like them just about any way they can be prepared, but mashed is probably my favorite.
Mashed potatoes are so easy to make that I wonder why people buy instant mashed potatoes. If you don’t want to take the time to peel them, buy thin-skinned varieties such as Yukon Golds or baby red potatoes and scrub them with a vegetable brush before you cook them.
Some of the finest restaurants I know make a point of explaining that their mashed potatoes are made with the skins on with all the nutrients and fiber that God intended potatoes to have. So if you want to treat your family and guests to a truly elegant dinner, serve them mashed potatoes textured with pieces of peel. Of course, be ready for a puzzled “What’s this?” from a four year old studying something that he thinks fell into the pot before you mashed the potatoes.
Here is how to get creamy mashed potatoes every time.
Half and Half
Assuming that you are using russet or Idaho potatoes, two of the best varieties for mashing, peel enough for the number of servings you need—usually one medium potato for each serving. Cut them into quarters and put them into a saucepan. Cover the potatoes with water, add a teaspoon of salt and bring them to a boil. Cook them for fifteen to twenty minutes until they are just fork tender, not falling apart, Drain them and leave them in the warm pan. If you are making only two servings, use a half teaspoon of salt.
While the potatoes are cooking, put a tablespoon of butter plus a tablespoon of half and half for each potato into a small pan or microwavable dish. Heat the mixture until the butter is melted.
Working quickly, mash the potatoes in the pan, pour the half and half and butter over them, add dashes of salt and white pepper and stir with the masher until you have a smooth fluffy mixture with no lumps. If necessary add a little extra half and half to the potatoes. You want them creamy, not hard and dry.
NOTES: If you want to be fancy, garnish your bowl of mashed potatoes with a couple sprigs of parsley or a dash of paprika. Parsley resting on hot mashed potatoes does contribute a nice fragrance.
Mom used to finish the bowl with a pat or two of butter on top, but I just mash enough into the potatoes. That way I avoid the lectures about excessive butter consumption from people who tell me that my mashed potatoes are better than theirs.
If you use unsalted butter, you may need a little more salt. As usual, taste and adjust the seasoning.