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June 22, 2007 / Tony

Ethereal Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes may be the ultimate comfort food. When prepared correctly, they are almost ethereal with their combination of creaminess, fluffiness, richness, and heartiness. In short, they can be magical and be a wonderful side dish to an infinite number of entrees. Here’s the ingredients I like to use at home:

2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
½ cup heavy cream
5 oz (1 stick plus 2 T) butter
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

And this is how you should make them. Place the potatoes in a large enough pot to hold them and water enough to cover them by one inch. Add about a tablespoon of salt to the water and then crank the heat up to high. Do not cover the pot. When the water begins to boil, reduce the heat so the water is simmering. Continue to cook the potatoes in this way (keep an eye on them). They are done when you can easily pierce one with the tip of a paring knife. (I know this is a rather imprecise way of describing when the potatoes are done but it’s the best I can come up with. Once you’ve made these potatoes a few times, you’ll get the hang of it.) Now, drain the potatoes and let them sit in the colander for about a minute. This will allow some of the excess water to evaporate from the potatoes, which should result in more flavorful mashed potatoes (water doesn’t really add any flavor).

Meanwhile, heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan. Heat just until the butter is melted and no more. Low heat would be an ideal way to do this. Be careful not to scorch the cream and/or cook it more than it needs to; there is no reason to add a cooked dairy flavor to the mashed potatoes.

Now, it’s time to mix. Place the potatoes in a mixing bowl (or the bowl to your stand mixer) and mix briefly on low speed (use the whip attachment if using a stand mixer). The goal here is just to break the potatoes up a little bit so they are more receptive to the cream and butter. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. (Be careful not to oversalt-remember you salted the cooking liquid and the potatoes have picked up some of that salinity.) Then add about ¾ of the cream and butter mixture, reserving the remainder. Now mix again on low speed until the mixture comes together. Then, increase the speed of the mixer and mix until the potatoes become fluffy and most of the lumps have been beaten out. Mix thoroughly but do not overmix-you’ll get gluey potatoes. At this point, it will be obvious if you need more of the cream and butter mixture. Taste it at this point as well to see if it needs additional salt and pepper. If it needs anything else, add it and repeat the mixing method, except try to keep this second mixing as short as possible. You should now have perfect mashed potatoes that are creamy, smooth, substantial, and flavorful.

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