Most culinary recipes or terms have a specific order or procedure. Mire poix is two parts onion, one part carrot, one part celery. A vinaigrette is three to four parts oil to one part vinegar. Even a potato gratin has some definition to the dish, thinly sliced potatoes, usually some form of cheese, either grated or in a sauce, placed in a dish and cooked under a broiler until golden brown.
Now, mashed potatoes, per Wikipedia, is a dish prepared by mashing boiled potatoes. Good, I’m glad we clarified that. Now everyone knows the most common version: Russet potatoes, butter, milk or cream, salt and pepper. Even this has some subtle variations such as substituting Yukon potatoes, adding roasted garlic to the milk or cream or folding in some freshly chopped herbs at the end.
But the variation doesn’t stop there. There are no less than 50 different ingredients that can be added to mashed potatoes, depending on what culture your recipe comes from. Everything from Indian to Spanish to Italian, all qualify as mashed potatoes.
Two of my favorite versions are Roasted Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes and Curried Mashed Sweet Potatoes, which we will go over later.
Now regardless of what recipe you are using, there are a few key rules that will help make your mashed potatoes the favorite at family holiday.
- Always let your potatoes sit for a few minutes after draining. This will allow all the excess moisture to evaporate, removing more of the unwanted water. Water is the enemy of fluffy mashed potatoes, especially when using Russet potatoes. Excess water will make your potatoes stiff and glue like.
- Salt! Potatoes are one of the few vegetables that you really have to try to over-salt. There is nothing worse than having a perfectly cooked and prepared batch of mashed potatoes fall flat due to lack of seasoning. Salt is your friend and will elevate your mashed potatoes to Super Star Status.
- Use a good masher. You either want to use a food mill or a high quality hand masher. Personally, I’ve got a food Rosle food mill for large batches and a Danesco Action Masher for smaller batches. We carry both at The Chopping Block. They are multi-purpose and can be used for other tasks in the kitchen. Side note #1: I’m not a fan of single use tools, waste of space and money.
- Don’t let the potatoes cool completely before working with them. The cooler they get, the harder it is going to be to mash them and get the right finished texture. If you are using butter or any other fat that is solid at room temperature, it will become thicker as the potatoes cool off.
Now that we have established the basic rules for mashed potatoes, let’s go back to the original definition. In case you forgot, here it is again – make a dish prepared by mashing boiled potatoes. Try experimenting with different flavor profiles to match your meal. Bacon, cheddar and chive sound good. Blue cheese and caramelized onion? Yup, that works. Celery root, potato and parsley, with a nice cut of steak? Delicious!
Included are two of my favorite variations for mashed potatoes, but let your imagination run free.
Roasted Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil Potato Cakes
2 pounds red skin potatoes
½ cup quality extra virgin olive oil (Frantoia, Lucini or similar)
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 sprigs of thyme, rosemary or sage
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Place the olive oil, garlic and herbs in a pot and cook over low heat until garlic is lightly toasted. Strain the oil and save.
In a separate pot, boil the potatoes in salted water until knife tender, about 20-30 minutes, drain and let rest for about 10 minutes or until there is no longer steam coming off the potatoes.
Once the potatoes have stopped steaming, mash them until all of the big chunks have been broken up, then start slowly adding the warm olive oil until the desired consistency is reached. If you are just making mashed potatoes, you can make them a little softer, if you want to make the potato cakes, leave them a little firmer.
After you have reach the desired consistency, season with Salt and Pepper.
To make the potato cakes, make hamburger size patties out of the mashed potatoes and pan fry them over medium high heat until golden brown on both sides.
Enjoy with grilled fish and lemon aioli.
Curried Sweet Potato Mash
2 large sweet potatoes
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp sweet curry powder
1 -2 T honey or brown sugar
1 tsp fresh or ½ tsp ground ginger – Optional
Cilantro – Garnish
Salt and Pepper
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into large dice. Boil in salted water until knife tender, drain, and let steam for 5 – 10 minutes.
Mash the potatoes until all the large chunks have been broken up. Add in the curry powder, honey and ginger.
Add just enough coconut milk to thin the potatoes to the desired consistency. I’ve never used the whole can unless I’m making a batch for 20 people.
Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with Cilantro and enjoy.
This makes a great side dish for the holidays. The curry adds depth, but doesn’t overpower, so it can be served with pork roast or seared duck breast for a more traditional meal.
Side note #2: I’m sure you noticed in the picture that the coconut can is upside down. That was intentional. Lazy line cook trick #245 – Coconut milk cans are a pain to open from top, so, shake the can to mix coconut solids and water back to together, open can from bottom, then, if there are any solids left, you can scrape them out with ease.
Side note #3: Both of these recipes can easily adapted to be vegan, plus they are free of any of the major allergies, so you can make them for anyone!
Want more mashed potato know how? Watch Shelley’s video where she uses the Rosle Potato Masher.