As a kid, I never really minded rustic mashed potatoes. My family was a “more lumps the better” kind of family. But, when I married Mike, I learned that not only did he not like gravy on his potatoes (WHAT?!?) he also didn’t like any lumps or bumps in his potatoes.
“How can that be and what planet do you come from?”
So, for Christmas and the holidays, I decided to make it my mission to know how to make creamy, fluffy and perfect mashed potatoes from real potatoes every single time. Might I add, however, that this process came with several mishaps and learning experiences. I now feel it is my duty to pass my knowledge onto you so that all those potatoes didn’t go down the drain in vain. With these tips you can avoid gluey, runny, dry or just downright gross mashed potato experiences without a box of flakes.
It’s Christmas! Everyone deserves these potatoes. They’re rich and creamy yet fluffy. They’re buttery and sinfully savory with just a hint of peppery goodness. They’re comfort on a fork, for goodness sakes! They’re so delicious that you don’t even need any gravy (this point is coming from a life-long gravy lover, might I add).
1. The Potatoes: Use Russet or Yukon gold potatoes. They’re the best for mashed potatoes, in my opinion.
2. Flavor and Texture: Drop the potatoes into cold, salted water and THEN bring to a boil. You may add a couple of whole garlic cloves to flavor the potatoes, just remember to remove them before mashing. Don’t over-boil the potatoes. If they break apart easily when you stick a fork in them, they’re definitely done (a minute before that they were done). You don’t want them over saturated with water and falling apart in the water. That’s a bad thing.
3. Mashing: A potato ricer is your friend for creamy potatoes. An electric hand mixer will suffice, but the potatoes will be somewhat lumpy. If you don’t mind lumps, then go for the mixer, or hand masher. If you prefer perfectly creamy and fluffy potatoes, you must use the ricer. Over processed and over mixed potatoes are not good. Never ever use a food processor or a blender, as this will result in potato wall paper paste, not mashed potatoes… unless you’re some sort of expert, which I am definitely not.
4. Keep Hot: Warm any additions before adding to the potatoes. Cold milk or cream to hot potatoes means they won’t retain their heat for very long, and nobody likes cold mashed potatoes for a holiday dinner.
5. Make It A Crowd Pleaser: Salt to taste and get a second opinion too. Ten different people, most likely, will not all like the same amount of salt, so make sure the potatoes are not overly salty. Don’t dump salt in and hope for the best. Taste. Then salt to taste. Then have someone else taste too. It’s a rough job, but somebody has to do it.
6. More Flavor: Add a little pepper too, please. It’s good! If you like herb mashed potatoes, I suggest adding the herbs to the butter and cream mixture when it warms, to bring out the flavor before adding. For the holidays though, I like to just go straight with classic flavors. The potatoes are mostly just a vehicle for butter, salt and pepper, honestly. Who can argue with that?
7. Butter: Speaking of butter…Don’t skimp, please. Nobody likes a butter miser, especially at Christmas.
8. Other Additions: I like to add a little warmed cream cheese and/ or a tablespoon of sour cream at the end, just to bump up the creamy and tangy factor. The cream cheese adds the creamy and the sour cream adds a bit of tang too (without over using salt) , which makes people say, “oh my goodness these are so good!”
9. Serving: Know when not to serve mashed potatoes. If you’re having a “drop in” and not a “sit down” dinner party, then go with a different dish. Nobody can keep mashed potatoes perfect for more than 45 minutes. I’m convinced that’s a fact.
10. Last: Rice the potatoes into a warmed bowl over simmering water. This keeps them from cooling too quickly. Mashed potatoes are very time sensitive. It’s best just to accept that fact and work with it.
Perfectly Creamy and Fluffy Classic Mashed Potatoes
- 2 pounds russet or Yukon gold potatoes
- water for simmering
- 1 tablespoon salt for water (plus more to taste)
- 1 whole peeled garlic clove for water (optional)
- 1/2 cup cream (you may use whole milk, if desired)
- 3 ounces cream cheese
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (more to taste if desired)
- 4 tablespoons sour cream
- dash of nutmeg (optional)
- Peel and cut potatoes into evenly sized chunks or thick slices. Place the chopped potatoes into a medium saucepan and cover with cold water and add the salt. Add garlic clove if desired.
- Bring to a simmer. Fill another saucepan with water; place over low heat. Keep potatoes at a low simmer until a fork slips in and out easily. Drain potatoes and (remove garlic cloves if you added them) set aside. Place cream, cream cheese and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and warm. Do not boil or overheat, just warm.
- Place a heat-proof bowl over the saucepan of simmering water. The bowl should not be touching the water, just hovering over it. Press hot, drained potatoes through ricer into bowl.
- Stir potatoes with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 1 minute. Using a whisk, drizzle in warm cream mixture, whisking continuously. Add pepper and sour cream and stir. Add salt to taste and a dash of nutmeg if desired; whisk to combine. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Note: You may peel and chop your potatoes ahead of time. Just cover with water and refrigerate. Drain water when you’re ready to use the potatoes.