Classic Mashed Potatoes

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Is there anyone alive who doesn’t like mashed potatoes?  If so, I’d like to meet them.  I would have a lot of questions.  No, I’ve never encountered anyone who actively dislikes mashed potatoes.  I’ve encountered many diverse, and all equally passionately held, opinions about mashed potatoes, though… it seems that everyone holds strong preferences on this topic.  Do you like them lumpy or smooth? Skins on or off?  With cheese, buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream?  Do you add mix-ins?  What about herbs?  Do you process them in the mixer, or with a food mill, or with a potato ricer, or with a potato masher?

Here are my strongly-held opinions about mashed potatoes: I like them smooth, but with skins on (c’mon, you need some nutrients).  I don’t believe lumps have any place in a bowl of mashed potatoes.  For that reason, I use a stand mixer.  I just can’t commit to the time it takes to make potatoes as smooth as I like them with a potato masher, and hubby hates my potato ricer for some reason.  (If you do make smooth mashed potatoes with a masher, God bless you.  I have so much respect for you!)  I like mine with buttermilk or yogurt, and I like to add chives.  That’s my classic formula, but I’m not afraid to mix it up, either… mashed potatoes can handle it.

Do you disagree with my opinions about mashed potatoes?  Good!  There’s nothing like a potato debate.  Bottom line, the thing about mashed potatoes is this: every cook should know how to make them.  Every cook should have a preferred recipe.  And every cook should deviate from that recipe routinely.  It’s the only way to give the humble potato the respect it deserves, but will never ask for.

Classic Mashed Potatoes

1 pound potatoes (Yukon Gold or red new potatoes are great), scrubbed and large-diced
1/4 cup buttermilk (or regular milk, or milk and yogurt…)
1 heaping tablespoon light sour cream
kosher salt
fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives (or scallions)

  • Bring a large pot of water to a hard boil and salt generously with kosher salt.  Add large-diced potatoes and boil hard for approximately 20 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.
  • Drain potatoes and add them to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment.  Begin beating at a low speed, gradually bringing the speed up (every 10-15 seconds or so) to the maximum.  Beat on maximum speed for approximately one minute – but keep an eye on the potatoes.  You don’t want them to get gluey!  If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides. (Or, alternatively, process through a food mill or potato ricer into a heat-resistant bowl, or return them to the pot and take out your frustrations on them with a potato masher.)
  • With the mixer running on low (or with your trusty wooden spoon) stir in the liquid(s) and the chives.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Remember, you salted the cooking water, so the potatoes are somewhat seasoned already.  It’s important to taste before adding any additional salt, to make sure you don’t over-do it.)  If desired, mix in any additional herbs, sliced scallions, bacon bits, cheese… whatever your little heart desires!  Go nuts!

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Source: Mixer method adapted from KitchenAid mixer instructions; recipe Covered In Flour

5 thoughts on “Classic Mashed Potatoes

  1. If you use a little more milk and make sure you cook the potatoes slightly softer than fork tender; they’re not too hard to hand mash to smooth. I got a tip from a friend last year that made the potatoes super creamy: add some milk/cream to the cooking water. He actually suggested to boil them in straight milk, but I thought that was excessive, so I added some cream to the water and it really helped. I also soak the potatoes for a little bit after cutting, then drain the water and refill before cooking. It keeps them clean while I go through piles of potatoes (since I’m usually making them for Thanksgiving) and removes some of the excess starch.

  2. Thanks for the tip, Ais! I’ll be sure to try that. I’ve got my eye on this fancy looking spring-loaded potato masher; that plus your suggestion might actually turn hand-mashing potatoes from a chore into something enjoyable! I’ll have to work on my biceps some more no matter what, though. =)

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