Up until a few years ago whenever we wanted mashed potatoes with dinner they always came out of a box. For some reason I felt too intimidated to make them from scratch. When I did try sometimes I overcooked or undercooked the potatoes, other times they either tasted bland or weren’t creamy enough. One day I had enough of powdery packages and set out to conquer my fear. Instead of getting caught up on all the mistakes I was making I started cooking mashed potatoes by feel. Looking back I can see how silly it was to not have practiced more. Homemade mashed potatoes are super simple to prepare and I know I don’t have to tell you how much better they taste.
Now when I prepare mashed potatoes I never stop to measure ingredients. Like all of my cooking and recipes I cook by feel. (For the recipes I share with you I do stop to measure ingredients.) The most important factor I learned about cooking mashed potatoes is that the results will depend on many things. The type of potato used and its starch and water content will greatly effect the results. According to The Cook’s Thesaurus website the best potatoes for mashing are those with a high starch content like russet (Idaho), Yukon gold, Caribe and purple potatoes. If in doubt you can always do what I do and consult the package labels. I always reach for the local variety who’s package states they are best for mashing.
Peeling, Sizes & Salt:
I don’t always buy organic potatoes so they usually get peeled. Peeling or no peeling is a personal choice, but some feel that leaving the skin on adds another flavour to the mash. When boiling the potatoes make sure to cut into even sized pieces so they cook at the same rate. If I’m pressed for time the pieces are smaller to achieve a quicker cooking time. But be warned that you’ll have to keep a close eye on them to prevent over cooking. Next comes the salt -a very important element. I always salt the boiling water plenty, then after cooking and draining I add a bit more salt. Taste and adjust to your taste.
Cooking Time & Salt:
Cooking time will depend on the potato variety used and of course on size. I cook until they are fork tender. In other words until I can push a fork through without resistance. If the potato crumbles then you’ve over cooked and it’s time to drain. After draining the pot I add several pieces of whole fat butter. Add a little salt then cover the pot and leave for a few minutes until the butter melts. Now you’ll need to decide how smooth or lumpy you want them. Once the butter has melted using a potato masher I begin mashing slowly.
If you want creamy buttery potatoes you have to use a full fat liquid. Okay, you could use low-fat but the taste is not on the same level. I always use either whole (full fat) milk or evaporated milk. Though more caloric the results are amazing. In these mashed potatoes I used whole milk. Instead of measuring how much liquid to use I first look at the potato texture after boiling. If they appear dry then you’ll require more liquid than ones with more moisture. As I slowly start mashing I begin adding a little bit of milk then mash a little more. Repeating this until I am both happy with the texture or creaminess. Often times I prefer a lumpy mash so I end up using anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 or cup of liquid. Keep a close eye on the texture and slowly add liquid to achieve the consistency you desire. Taste if needed add a little more salt.
Occasionally I like adding spices or herbs to the mash. Roasted garlic cloves are excellent in mashed potatoes. Simply roast a whole head of garlic until soft, then mash it into the potatoes. Rosemary, parsley, pepper flakes, bacon bits, smoked paprika and of course cheese are all great ingredients to mix with mashed potatoes. The possibilities are truly endless. So have fun and experiment with different flavours.
The Yummy Pics Challenge Community:
Have you heard about the new Google+ “Communities” feature? It is basically a new feature to get together with people who have similar interest. I have created a community called “Yummy Pics Challenge”. It is a photography community to learn and share ways to improve our food photography. Members can only join by invitation. I have sent out invitations to many of you on Google+ so make sure you check your accounts. If you did not receive one and would like to join please make sure you follow me on Google+ or say so in the comments below.
You will have the opportunity to learn, ask and receive help and critique from fellow members –and from me too. I will also be sharing tips, and hosting giveaways there that won’t make it onto the blog. The community is growing fast and I hope to see you there!
Have a great weekend.