Serves 6 as a side dish
When my friend Pam’s daughter was about six she said something so funny I will never forget it. Her younger sister, Phoebe, age three, was rhapsodizing about her imaginary Prince Charming and what he would say and do when he came to rescue her from . . . well, from what remains unclear, since her life was quite delightful. Maya chimed in with her own version of what the future looked like for her: “My prince will have a big, big butt and when he rides up he’ll jump down off his horse and say, ‘Helllloooooo, Sweetheart.’”
What does this have to do with mashed potatoes? Nothing, really. It’s just that every time I see a beautiful blob of hot mashed potatoes I want to say, “Hellloooo, Sweetheart,” too. Charlie also often raises a forkful of mashed potatoes and gazes at them with unabashed affection, in a way that belies the fact that this is, in fact, a foodstuff, not a long lost family member. And Gary, upon hearing that mashed potatoes are on the menu, pulls out that old Bewitched-era chestnut, “Mashed potatoes? Honey, did you wreck the car?” Funny man. Actually, the line was amusing to him until the time that I actually wrecked the car and then made mashed potatoes for dinner. Who’s funny now?
What do mashed potatoes go with? What don’t they go with? Steak, roast chicken, salmon, pork chops, meat loaf, and brisket are always begging for mashed potatoes.
- Kosher or coarse salt
- 8 large Idaho or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 4 pounds total), peeled and cut in half
- 1 cups milk, preferably whole
- 1⁄2 cups light or heavy (whipping) cream or half-and-half (see Note)
- 4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt, let the water return to a boil, then add the potatoes (the water should cover the potatoes by at least 2 inches). Let the water come to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the potatoes, partially covered, until they are very tender when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot, and place it over medium-low heat. Heat the potatoes, tossing them occasionally, until the moisture is all gone and the potatoes have begun to dry out, but not to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and put the potatoes through a ricer or mash them with a potato masher until they are as smooth as you like them. Return the potatoes to the pot.
3. Place the milk and the cream in a microwave-safe bowl or pitcher and heat until hot, about 1 minute. (You can also heat the milk and cream in the pot over medium heat before you return the potatoes to it.) Add the butter and the hot milk and cream mixture to the potatoes and stir with a wooden spoon or a whisk until well combined.
4. You can continue with Step 5 or see the Fork in the Road suggestions for add-ins on this page.
5. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper to taste and stir over medium-low heat until everything is hot and well blended, about 2 minutes. Now you can wreck the car.
NoteIf you don’t feel like using the cream here, or you don’t have it on hand, just add another 1⁄2 cup of milk and call it a day.
When you add the butter and the milk and cream mixture to the potatoes and stir at first it will look like the potatoes are way too liquidy. Don’t worry, when the mashed potatoes are returned to the heat they will thicken up.
If you make the mashed potatoes ahead of time you can hold them, covered in the pot, for up to three hours, then reheat them gently over low heat, adding some more hot milk as necessary and stirring frequently.
What the Kids Can Do
Kids might peel the potatoes, cut up the butter, measure the liquids, mash or rice the potatoes, and stir up the mashed potatoes.
Fork in the Road
Lots of things can be added to mashed potatoes to make them special. The amounts here are for the whole recipe. You may want to toss one or two peeled garlic cloves into the pot and simmer them with the potatoes, then mash them, too.
1⁄2 cup soft goat cheese or shredded hard cheese, such as cheddar or fontina • 1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, or chives • 1⁄4 cup pesto • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard • 1 tablespoon drained prepared horseradish.
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