Everyone loves mashed potatoes, particularly if the meal includes simple gravy. My husband (admittedly an extremist on the subject) swears that he’d be content to make a whole meal out of nothing but mashed potatoes and gravy.
There are two main candidates for the preparation of mashed potatoes. The first choice, and the one we are all most familiar with, is the russet or baking potato. (The Idaho potato is the most famous of the russets.) It is high in starch and fluffs up nicely. Another good choice is the Yukon Gold, which is becoming increasingly available at the supermarket. A cross between a baking and a boiling potato the Yukon Gold is naturally buttery. Whichever potatoes you choose, do not cut them up into smaller pieces in an attempt to decrease the time it takes to boil them. That will only make them watery and dilute the flavor.
There are several good tools for mashing, the ricer (which looks like an enormous garlic press), the food mill, and the hand potato masher. Just don’t mash them in the food processor unless you want an irretrievable gluey mess. Believe me, I know. I almost ruined our Thanksgiving one year by choosing the wrong tool.
If you like your potatoes fairly stiff, follow the recipe exactly. If you like them a little looser, just add more hot milk and more butter.
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
Kosher salt to taste
1/2 to 3/4 cup whole milk, heated
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter,
cut into tablespoons and softened
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Serves 4 to 6
Quarter or halve the potatoes, depending on size. Place in a large saucepan and pour in enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and stir to dry out for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a food mill fitted with the finest blade or to a ricer and puree. (Or just mash them with a handheld potato masher.) Stir in 1/2 cup of the milk, the butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Thin with additional milk if you like a lighter texture. (I like my mashed potatoes pretty soft.) Serve right away or keep warm in a double boiler.