Tips for Perfect Mashed Potatoes- and two recipes

My grandma Josephine Gander made the best mashed potatoes.

Intensely thick and rich, I’d have to jerk the spoon to get them off. The recipe includes cream cheese, half and half, lots of butter and a dab of sour cream-which adds incredible depth of flavor. The heavy dose of dairy may have been a reflection on the fact that my mom’s family were dairy farmers for decades.

We still serve grandma’s mashed potatoes every Thanksgiving and that’s just about the only time because they are not healthy, but they are delicious. These potatoes are wonderful with meatloaf or  pot roast.

This time of year, mashed potatoes start to reappear on our dinner menu.

Mashed potatoes are pretty easy to make but there good potatoes and exceptional potatoes. Of course, personal taste matters a lot when making mashed potatoes. Some people like them thin, others like thick potatoes. Regardless, here are some tips to perfecting your potatoes- regardless of the style.

Potatoes absorb moisture, so never let them sit in the cooking water because they will absorb it and become soggy. You want to drain them immediately and start adding the other ingredients.

If you use milk or half and half, warm it slightly on the stove before adding it so it doesn’t cool the potatoes down. Mashed potatoes are best served immediately.

Always use cold butter so that the fat evenly distributes in the dish (fat separates as it melts so if it’s already melted, it doesn’t distribute as evenly). If you’re using a large amount of butter, cut it into tablespoons measurements before adding it to hot potatoes.

If you want to cut some fat from a recipe, try using milk and infusing it with bay leaves and other flavorful mixture. Cooking the potatoes in chicken stock is another way to add flavor without fat.

To cut the carb content, use half potatoes and half cauliflower.

Always wash your potatoes and once they’ve been peeled, rinse them again to be sure you removed all the dirt.

A combination of potatoes will often yield a fluffier mix. Most people use Russet, but Yukon Gold has a buttery taste and great texture, so a combination of the two is wonderful.

Do not overmix potatoes because they will become gummy.

Here’s my recipe for Basil Mashed Potatoes and my grandma’s recipe. She didn’t write anything down, so this is my interpretation.

Basil Mashed Potatoes

Serves 6-8

4 cups peeled and sliced Russet potatoes

4 cups peeled and sliced Yukon Gold potatoes

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoons

½ cup half and half (or more)

1 tablespoons basil paste (or more to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash, peel and slice all the potatoes into 1- inch thick chunks. Place in a large pot with a lid and cover with water. Add salt and turn the burner onto high heat and cover the pot. Boil for 20 minutes, or until tender.

In a small saucepan, warm the half and half.

Slice the butter into tablespoons. When potatoes are done, drain immediately and then return to the pot. Add butter and half and half and basil paste and mash the potatoes. I would start with 1 tablespoon of basil paste and then taste it. If you want more basil flavor, add more.

Adjust seasoning and serve.

Grandma's Mashed Potatoes

Grandma Gander’s Mashed Potatoes

Serves 7-9

8 cups peeled and sliced Russet potatoes

1 teaspoon salt

5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature cut into tablespoons

1 stick chilled butter, cut into tablespoons

½ cup half and half (more if you like thinner potatoes)

2 tablespoons sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

It’s important that the cream cheese is at room temperature when you incorporate it into potatoes so it mixes well.

Wash, peel and slice all the potatoes into 1-inch thick slices.

Place in a large pot and cover the potatoes with water and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

When potatoes are almost done, warm the half and half.

When potatoes are ready, drain them and return to the pan immediately. Mix in cream cheese, half and half, butter and sour cream.  Mash until you get the desired consistency. Depending on how thick or thin you like potatoes, you may want to add more half and half.

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

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