Saturday, December 18, 2004

About Those Mashed Potatoes ...

WICKED THOUGHTS has a funny post on holiday eating tips. For the most part it's worth a chuckle or two, but there's one point where there's a bone of contention:

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

The contention? Why the heck do you need milk of any sort to make mashed potatoes?

If we're talking about those paper-tasting "instant" muck, then I suppose you could put milk in to add some backbone to that taste. But really -- why not use fresh potatoes and do it the right way -- the old-fashioned way?

It's not hard -- at least not if you know how. Just follow these steps:

1. You need a minimum of two large potatoes, or three medium-sized potatoes. After that, you add one large potato per person being served. White or red-skin doesn't matter; Yukon Gold is a nice choice especially for its color. The trick is to use the potatoes within a week from when you bought them; otherwise you risk sprouting.

2. Rough-cut the potatoes into cubes before you boil them. The smaller you cube them, the quicker (and softer) they'll cook. You shouldn't go smaller than 1.5 inches per cube.

3. You need at least half again as much water as you need to cover the potatoes, and the water must be salted.

4. Just prior to boiling, take out butter from the fridge and let it get to room temperature.

5. Potatoes should be boiled for a minimum of 10 minutes on medium-high heat.

6. If you want garlic mashed potatoes, squash 3 cloves of garlic per two potatoes, take the skin off and boil them at the same time. Don't chop them; you'll get a milder flavor this way.

7. You can use a regular fork (just make sure it's good and thick) if you don't have a masher.

8. Just prior to the mashing stage is when you add pepper from a pepper grinder. You also add in 2 tbsp. of butter per serving.

9. Mashing shouldn't take any more than 5 minutes. Have fun and squash'em; this is the type of thing that eight-year-old kids like to do. Don't worry about lumps too much. Lumps give mashed potatoes character. They tell the diner that you took the time and care to make these fresh.

And now they're done and ready, all mashed and mixed with the butter (which has melted over the freshly boiled potatoes while you were mashing), the pepper and the garlic. A perfect accompaniment for steak, roast chicken or turkey, and all set for the gravy.


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