Sometimes the most simply basic things can be the toughest to teach people who are new to a vocation, this is true of cooking, lifting, and any one of the other numerous skills a modern man must require. So I’d like to take the time to start going over some very basic, but not necessarily easy, cooking concepts.
Today we’re going to look at that archetypal Anglo-Saxon comfort food, Mashed Potatoes. Almost all of us have had them, at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or one of many occasions, special or not. If you’re like me you remember watching your grandma turn potatoes with a small paring knife and lop them into to pieces, letting them fall carefree into a large pot of water, to be boiled, mashed, and served up for Sunday dinner. I remember I’d help her, a good job for small hands, but I got a peeler not a knife. I was always amazed at how quickly she could peel them, and even now over a decade later as a professional I still give her respect for that.
Now a word of warning. This is not a healthy recipe. This is not a lite recipe. This is a butter and cream laden, down home goodness recipe. Maybe I’ll call it good for bulking? Let’s get to it.
- A large pot (8 qts or more)
- A stiff wire wisk (if you can bed the tines its not “stiff” find a heavier gauge one)
- A heat resistant rubber spatula
- A potatoe peeler (I like ceramic ones) or a pairing knife’
- A colander
- 5lbs of potatoes
- 1 stick of butter (I warned you)
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 1/2 c half-n-half
- Start by taking your stick of butter out of the fridge and setting it on the counter so it warms up and starts to soften
- Next fill your pot roughly 2/3 the way with COLD water, you want enough room left for the potatoes and then some, so it doesn’t boil over
- Start peeling the potatoes. As you peel each one put the whole peeled potato into the water, this will keep it from oxidizing and getting rusty.
- After they’re all peeled cut them into medium sized pieces. The exact size isn’t as important as how uniform the pieces are. You want them all roughly the same size so that they all cook at the same rate.
- Once your potatoes are all cut toss the cloves of garlic into the water, along with a decent sized pinch of salt and set the pot over medium heat, erring on the lower side if you’re stove runs hot.
- Cover the pot and let it come to a slow boil, If its rolling and boiling hard turn the heat down, but if the most you get is a slight boil just above a simmer you’re good.
- Most people use the knife test to check potatoes doneness, but I think its to easy to fuck up, I prefer the squish test. Fish a larger piece of potato out of the pot and place it your counter, if you can smash it with little or no effort your potatoes are done. If it starts to fall apart before you touch it then its over done.
- Drain the spuds into the colander, getting most of the water off, though shaking it to get all the water off is unnecessary
- Return the drained potatoes to the pot and add in you stick of butter along with salt and black pepper (and any other dry seasonings and spices you feel like adding) and start to roughly mash with the whisk. At this point I just stomp the whisk straight down, with my main goal being to break down all the large pieces into smaller pieces.
- Once the butter is melted in and the potatoes are reduced to a lot of small pieces, and starting to resemble mashed potatoes, add in the heavy cream and half-n-half. Slowly stir the mixture to incorporate the dairy, this will also continue to break down the potatoes into the “paste” (horrible word to describe it, but accurate) that is mashed potatoes.
- When the cream and half-n-half are mostly mixed in and not sloshing about, whisk and stir with more force, combining that with the same up and down stomping motion, do this until, well, you have mashed potatoes. Make sure not to over mash them are they’ll start to get gluey and unpleasant, a few lumps never killed anyone. (Oh and if you’re wondering about the garlic, the boiling process will have softened it to mush so it’ll mash right into the mixture)