potatoes are a good comfort food for these cold days.
is the time of year when we’re all thinking about soothing
our weather-weary bones with some old-fashioned,
just-like-mom-would-make comfort food.
it comes to comfort, no dish says "sit down and warm
up" better than a buttery bowl of mashed potatoes.
you think that making the perfect bowl of mashers is as
simple as boiling potatoes and stirring in some butter and
milk, think again. There’s science behind every spud.
food scientists and chefs have devoted years of research to
how to make perfect mashed potatoes. But even after all that
study, personal preference will always be a factor.
do you like your mashed potatoes, fluffy or creamy?
French chef Joel Robuchon introduced Americans to potatoes
so creamy and laden with butter that they spread across the
plate in a soft yellow mass. It’s a style the French would
refer to as pommes puree, in which the potatoes are passed
through a food mill and combined with half their weight in
rich puree is to the extreme of what most of Americans think
of as creamy mashed potatoes, and creamy potatoes can be
achieved without a pound of butter.
there is a science to creating the perfect mashed potatoes.
POTATOES WITH CARE
starch content of potatoes plays a big role in determining
how mashed potatoes will turn out. Two of the preferred
varieties for making mashed potatoes are russets or baking
potatoes, and yellow potatoes.
boiled, high-starch russets become dry and crumbly. Their
flesh will soak up copious amounts of melted butter and
cream, making them a good choice.
potatoes, such as the Yukon Gold variety, have a dense
texture that many chefs prize for making mashed potatoes.
They aren’t as starchy as russets, but will produce a
creamy finished product.
waxy red-skinned potatoes, such as the Red Bliss variety,
for making rustic smashed potatoes with the skins on.
CUBE OR COOK WHOLE?
disagree on whether to peel and cut potatoes before cooking
editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, in their book
"Cook’s Illustrated: The Science of Good
Cooking," maintain that potatoes cut into chunks before
cooking can absorb too much water and have a soggy texture
and washed-out flavor.
when potatoes are cooked whole they sometimes produce
inconsistent results. Potatoes, particularly larger ones,
can be bursting their skins on the outside while their
centers are still hard.
the method that works best for you, but use care to not
overcook cubed potatoes or undercook whole ones.
WELL AND MASH
potatoes well and return them to their warm pot. Place over
low heat to further dry them out, making them thirsty for
butter and cream.
cook has a preferred masher. For fluffier potatoes, use a
potato ricer; for creamier, a food mill; and for chunky with
a few lumps left in, a potato masher.
use a food processor or blender, which will turn potatoes
into gluey paste. Some purists will eschew an electric hand
mixer as well, but others believe it produces a fluffy,
using a hand mixer, take care not to overmix the potatoes.
Consider putting them through a ricer first, then
incorporating the butter and cream with a hand mixer to
fluff them up.
BUTTER AND CREAM
rule of thumb is one stick of butter for every 2 pounds of
potatoes. Melt the butter and add it first. As "The
Science of Good Cooking" explains, the melted butter
will coat the starch molecules with fat, which will keep
them from reacting with the water in the milk or cream,
which can turn the potatoes gluey.
milk, half-and-half or heavy cream can all be used, up to 1
cup depending on your desired final consistency. Always heat
the milk first to keep the potatoes from turning cold and
stiff before serving.
are three recipes for producing different types of mashed
potatoes that will satisfy anyone’s craving for a bowl of
ROBUCHON-STYLE POMMES PUREE
Yukon Gold potatoes
1 cup whole milk
sticks unsalted butter, diced and kept well chilled until
used (see note)
and pepper, to taste
the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water by 1 inch.
Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook
until a knife slips in and out of the potatoes easily and
cleanly, about 25 minutes.
the potatoes and peel them. Put them through a food mill
fitted with its finest disk. Return milled potatoes to a
saucepan. Place pan over medium heat and turn with a spatula
to dry out the moisture in the potatoes.
small saucepan, add the milk and bring to a boil.
the heat under the potatoes to low and incorporate the
well-chilled butter bit by bit, stirring vigorously until
potatoes are creamy. Pour in a cup of the hot milk and stir
until absorbed. Add up to 1 cup additional hot milk until it
has been absorbed and finished potatoes are smooth and
silky. Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Robuchon’s original recipe had a ratio of 2 pounds of
potatoes to 1 pound of butter. This recipe is less rich at 2
pounds of potatoes to ½ pound of butter.
Adapted from multiple sources
BROWN’S CREAMY MASHED POTATOES
Yukon Gold potatoes
(1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
tsp. freshly ground black pepper
the potatoes and cut into uniform ½-inch pieces. Place into
a 4-quart saucepan and cover with cold water by at least 1
inch. Cover, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Once
boiling, remove the lid, decrease the heat to maintain a
simmer and cook until the potatoes can easily be crushed
with a pair of tongs, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Drain
in a colander.
the cream, butter, salt and pepper into the now empty
4-quart saucepan and place back over the heat until the
butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set a food mill,
fitted with the smallest die, on top of the pot. Add 1 cup
of potatoes at a time to the mill. Once all of the potatoes
have passed through the mill, stir to combine. Taste and
adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve immediately.
4 to 6 servings.
tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
and pepper, to taste
potatoes in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover by
1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to
medium-low, and simmer until potatoes are just tender and a
paring knife can be slipped in and out of potatoes with
little resistance, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
ricer or food mill over now-empty saucepan. Using a pot
holder to hold potatoes and paring knife, peel skins from
potatoes. Working in batches, cut peeled potatoes into large
chunks and press or mill into saucepan.
in butter until incorporated. Gently whisk in half-and-half,
add 1 ½ teaspoons salt and season with pepper to taste.
"Cook’s Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking