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Perfect mashed potatoes

PotatoricerWe had a dinner party on Friday, which is hardly big news. We have dinner parties all the time. We’re having another one next Saturday. In fact, we sort of practiced on last Friday’s attendees so we could do a dry run on next Saturday’s menu. I mean, it won’t be precisely the same, but it gave us an opportunity to test out a few dishes on forgiving friends. Luckily, forgiveness was unnecessary, as everything turned out pretty much spot-on. There were a lot of clean plates at the end.

One of the ways we keep entertaining like this both easy and fun is to mix new recipes with standards from our repertoire. Our recipe for mashed potatoes, lightly modified from Julia and Jacques Cook at Home (or, as we call it, The Bible) works like a charm every time. Plus, you can make them a couple hours ahead, freeing up your time with guests.

There is one necessary prop, however: A potato ricer. Yes, it’s a bit of a unitasker, but it prevents the starch granules from being crushed and exploding, which results in pasty mashed potatoes. The one pictured is Oxo. The recipe after the jump.

Perfect mashed potatoes

Often recipes call for waxier potatoes, like Yukon Golds, but for my money nothing beats your regular old russet for texture and flavor. The starch granules are drier and almost crystalline, resulting in lighter, fluffier mashed potatoes. However, they do take a bit more butter and milk as a result.

4-5 large russet potatoes
4-5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup hot milk, plus more if needed
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
Salt and pepper to taste (read: a lot)
Chopped chives (optional)

Wash and peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Boil for approximately 10 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife. Drain and allow to steam off and cool slightly.

Set milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Smash garlic cloves with the flat of a knife and add to milk. Warm milk, but do not allow to boil; stir occasionally to avoid scalding or skin formation.

Run potatoes thru ricer into a large bowl. Add butter and mix with a wooden spoon until butter is melted and incorporated. Add 2/3 cup of the hot milk (leave the smashed garlic behind — it’s done its job), more if needed, as well as salt and pepper and mix until smooth. Add chives or other herbage if desired.

To keep potatoes at the ready for up to 3 hours, set bowl of potatoes over a pan of barely simmering water, float hot milk over the top and cover. Stir just before serving to even out the temperature.

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