Now that my favorite Thursday is behind us, life isn’t getting any easier. We’ve got mountains of leftovers in the fridge, and another big holiday looming ahead of us. But before we get into all that, it’s time to share my most favorite dish in the world.
Mashed potatoes (which is said best if you say it like Little Richard).
Here’s the thing with me and mashed potatoes. They come from Grandma Glass of Milk. So they are sacred. I don’t really use a recipe, but I’ll try to provide you with one. Oh. And one other thing. They involve butter in copious amounts. This is not food for the faint of heart. The only person I’ve found who uses more butter in her mashed potatoes than Grandma, is none other than the Pioneer Woman.
Here’s the trade off. Mashed potatoes are good. Almost heavenly. At their best (and these are mashed potatoes at their best), they are creamy, rich without being too heavy, and packed with flavor. They can be served with almost anything, and are only improved with gravy, pan juices, or anything else you feel like drizzling on top. And yet, they often appear on tables but twice a year. Mashed potatoes must be made at home more than twice a year. This is not just holiday food. Why would you deprive yourself? If, for example, you happen to be making a roast chicken, you will find yourself with at least an hour of inactive cook time. This is time you should be spending making mashed potatoes. Say you spend Friday evening trying to recreate the perfect steak dinner at home. Let me tell you how much better that steak tastes coming out of the oven when the plate in front of you already has a heaping pile of mashed potatoes on it. Do you get what I’m trying to tell you? We could all use more mashed potatoes in our lives.
Look no further than Grandma Glass of Milk’s Mashed Potatoes. This is a basic recipe, which can be taken in any number of directions. This Thanksgiving, I went the red potatoes, skins-on route, which is one of my favorite takes on mashed potatoes. They’re not as silky smooth as others, but I like a nice bit of texture on my plate, especially when so much at Thanksgiving is smooth and creamy.
You will need:
- 2 lbs. of medium red potatoes, cut into large chunks (1 1/2 – 2 in.). Try and use your master knife skills here so the potatoes are roughly the same size. This means they will all cook in the same amount of time.
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/2 – 3/4 C half and half (don’t ask questions)
- ground white pepper (Which is what Grandma Glass of Milk uses. Could you use black pepper? Probably. Would Grandma Glass of Milk speak to you again? Probably not.)
And for perfect potatoes, you will need one special tool. Don’t give me a hard time; aside from a zester and my mixer, there’s not much in the kitchen I couldn’t live without. But I’m serious in telling you that mashed potatoes are not mashed potatoes unless they’ve been riced. You must have a potato ricer. Most models only have holes on the bottom, which means they are merely spinach strainers in potato ricers’ clothing. But if you can find a good model with holes on the bottom and the sides, you’ve got a friend for life.
Now, down to business. Place the potatoes in a large pot, and add water until the potatoes are covered by about 1 1/2 inches. Set the pot on a burner and bring to a boil. Here is where the type of potato and the size of your chunks makes all the difference. Begin checking on your potatoes about 15 or 20 minutes into cooking. When they are fork-tender (meaning you can pierce the potato with a fork and feel no resistance), drain them.
Here’s the time to act quickly, so you don’t even have to turn the stove back on. Grab the ricer and press the potatoes through and back into the hot pot. Yes, the skins are on and will stick to the lid of the ricer. Just scrape them in the pot with everything else. When you’ve riced about 1/3 of the potatoes, add half of the butter, and give things a little stir. Keep ricing. After another third of the potatoes have been added, pour in the half and half. Mmmmm. Stir again. Rice the rest of the potatoes and add the last of the butter, and salt and pepper. Stir everything until your potatoes are creamy. This is the kind of dish that you want to taste as you go. You really can’t go wrong with more butter or half and half, and how much salt and pepper you enjoy is up to.
*In case you are making this for a major holiday and they happen to be finished long before your fowl, cover the potatoes with a lid. As mealtime approaches, remove the lid, turn the stove on low and add a little more butter and half and half. No one’s looking.
Once you have this down, the possibilities are endless. Add scallions, chives, roasted garlic, Old Bay, Lawry’s, really whatever you like or are trying to get rid of. Once you have this down, it’s really hard to go wrong.