I have a funny story to tell you.
And, yes, it’s about mashed potatoes.
When I was a kid, we always had a lot of food around the table. My mom was a butcher by trade and we are Italian, so I don’t think I need to say much more to paint a clear picture for you about what my dinner table would have looked like.
The funny thing is my mom did a few things that, in hindsight, were really weird. She would butcher a whole cow, portion it out and freeze steaks, roasts, ground beef and homemade sausage for us to have all year long. But when it came to something as simple as mashed potatoes, she only ever used boxed mashed potatoes.
Yup, those flakes of glory were what I knew to be mashed potatoes as a kid.
Fast forward into my teenage life, and I was having dinner at a friend’s house one night. They were having mashed potatoes….REAL mashed potatoes. I watched her mom mashing the boiled potatoes and adding all kinds of yumminess and I asked, “wow, what’s that you’re making?”
She looked at me oddly and said, “mashed potatoes…have you never had mashed potatoes?”. Poor little me…a real mashed potato virgin!
As an adult, I make mashed potatoes all the time (they are an absolute family favorite!). But, honestly, I never thought about posting a recipe for them.
I mean, most people know how to make mashed potatoes (whether they make them or not is a different story!). And, if someone has never made mashed potatoes, I’m thinking it would be pretty easy to follow a recipe and get it right.
But, lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about simple recipes. Sometimes, it’s the most simple things in life that are the most difficult to get right. For example, mashed potatoes should be creamy and silky and flavorful. But, not everyone knows how to get all of those attributes in one bowl of simple mashed potatoes. Also, there are tricks to get a bowl of perfect “mash” that nobody ever tells you about!
The first time I made mashed potatoes from scratch, I was newly married. I boiled the potatoes and, when they were tender, I shut off the pot and walked away…for, like, an hour! When I cam back to drain them, they had disintegrated into the water and became one soupy mess.
Note to self: drain water immediately (and, why did nobody tell me that it was a bad idea to leave them sitting in water?). But, the more often I made them, the more “how to make great mashed potatoes” details I learned. Like, leave them in the pot for a bit to dry out…that’s a good tip!
The next tip I learned (which was out of necessity because I was hosting a big family dinner and had to make a pile of things ahead of time) was to add some cream cheese to the mix. It somehow creates amazing “staying” power…you can keep them warm for a lot longer when you add the cream cheese and they reheat so well!
The other tip is using the right kind of potatoes. If you use waxy potatoes, the mixture will end up gummy. I almost always use russet potatoes and that means I can place them in my stand up mixer with the whisk attachment and come out with the creamiest mashed potatoes (without having to use a ricer!!)
And the last thing is that you can add whatever flavor you like to your mashed potatoes. Want a Greek flair? Add a spoonful of olive tapenade and crumble some feta into the mix! Need some middle Eastern flavors? Add in some cumin and drizzle with some bold extra virgin olive oil. Want to kick up the flavor with some autumn vibes? Swirl in some browned butter. Trust me…that last one is a game changer!!
This is the first installment on a series of posts I’ll be doing to get your holiday table in tip top shape!
Mashed potato lesson…done!
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
- 2 kg russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed (roughly 4 pounds or 6 potatoes)
- 1 package cream cheese, softened (250 g)
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (you can even sub in store bought tzatziki!)
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tbsp milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp parmigiano, grated (optional)
- Place potatoes in a saucepan, covering them with cold salted water and bring to a boil over high heat; boil for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender (alternately, place potatoes in a microwave safe bowl. cover with salted water and cook on high for 15 minutes)
- Once the potatoes are tender, drain them and let the potatoes sit, uncovered to dry out a bit.
- In the bottom of a mixing bowl, add cream cheese and butter and add the cooked potato chunks; beat with an electric mixer until smooth (alternately, if you like a completely smooth mixture, mash potatoes with a masher, or put through a food mill, then add to the butter and cream cheese and blend to combine.
- Whisk together egg yolk and milk in a separate bowl, then beat into potatoes; add the sour cream and season well with salt and pepper.
- Pour the mixture into a buttered 9 x 13" baking dish and let cool; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
- To reheat, bake in a 350 F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through (if you want an extra creamy mash, add a bit more milk and beat by hand with a wooden spoon before heating; if you would like a crunchy topping, simply scatter a handful of grated cheese on top of the potatoes before re-heating)