“Back to the Basics” Tips…Starting With Mashed Potatoes…Really!
I’ve been cooking for a very long time, and there are some things that I have been preparing much the same way for as long as I can remember. During the holidays, however, I came across some subtle changes that made some of the basics I cook taste so much better that I had to share. And when I say basics, I really mean it….mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, and baked chicken breast. I will post each separately over the next few days.
The key to doing anything well, and continually improving, is to always be open to the possibility that there may be another, even better, way to do what you do. How many times have you even thought about why you do something a certain way? Well today, I’m giving you a few tips that will make your mashed potatoes shine! For those of you who already knew these little secrets, I say good for you, I wish I had known sooner. For the rest of the readers, give these tips a try, you might be as surprised as I was!
What I found out about mashed potatoes is that it’s all in the technique. First, you must start by using 3 large peeled russet potatoes (for 4 servings). This really is the best kind to get the texture you want. Then, there are several secrets that will make all the difference:
- Cut the potatoes in half, lengthwise, and be sure the two parts are even. If you cut them in cubes, like I always did, you release too much starch.
- Put 2 tablespoons of salt in the water before you cook them. In an attempt to reduce my sodium intake, I rarely add any salt, so I thought this was a lot to use. But trust me, they don’t get too salty and it really enhances the flavor.
- Simmer, do not boil. Just look for easy bubbling movement in the water. Cook them for 20-25 minutes. Test them to be sure they are tender…better to overcook then undercook.
- Drain the potatoes and then return them to the pot. Turn the heat to high, and allow the potatoes to dry for about 30 seconds. You may even see steam come up from the excess water you didn’t see. Then take them off the heat.
- Use the right tool. If you don’t, your potatoes can become pasty. The best potato masher is the old design your mother probably had, pictured here:
- Mash the potatoes, holding the masher straight up and down, and go around the pot twice, starting at the edges and moving in circles into the center.
- Then add 1/4 cup butter (softened), mash the butter down into the potatoes. Then add 1/2 cup milk (whole milk, if you have it), and continue to go around the pot 2-3 more times just until the lumps are out and the butter is incorporated. Then change to a wire whisk and stir in salt and pepper to taste, just until evenly distributed, for about 15 seconds.
That’s it. Simple steps that will make something as simple and plain as mashed potatoes taste delicious. Try it!