Monday, December 29, 2008

Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes

* 5 lbs. russet or yukon gold potatoes
* 2 sticks of butter
* 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
* 1/2 to 3/4 cup half & half
* 1 tsp. Lawry's season salt
* 1 tsp. black pepper

With a vegetable peeler, peel 5 pounds of regular Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes. After peeling, rinse under cold water.

Now, I always like to chop the potatoes in half or in fourths before throwing them into the pot. They cook more quickly and more evenly this way. No need to freak and spaz and wig out here—just cut them so they’re generally the same size.

Bring a pot of water to a healthy simmer and then throw them in. Now, bring to a boil and cook for a good thirty minutes—possibly more. You have to give the potatoes the old fork check to make sure they’re done. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost—but not totally—fall apart. Remember, if the fork meets with any resistance, that means there will be little hard pieces of potatoes in the final product. Translation: LUMPS!

Drain the potatoes in a large colander and give yourself a nice steam facial while you’re at it. Not really.

When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Turn the burner on low. What we’re going to do is mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients. That way, the potatoes won’t be watery or “mealy.”

Do you have a potato masher? You need one! They’re relatively inexpensive and so much better to use than an electric mixer, the sharp blades of which can break down the starch in the potatoes and make the final product gummy. Mash away…until most of the steam has escaped and most of the chunks of potato have been mashed well, about three minutes. Turn off the stove.

Find the butter you’ve been softening and just slice it right into the hot potatoes. For five pounds of potatoes, I use 2 sticks.

Now, are you ready to get SERIOUS? Okay, I’m just making sure. This, my friends and cohorts, is THE secret ingredient of delectable, delightful, creamy, perfect mashed potatoes. Do not be afraid. Do not scream and run. You must trust me. I know of what I speak. To five pounds of potatoes, I add an 8 oz package of cream cheese. It’s best if it’s softened.

Let me just say that Michael and Madison would never—NEVER—touch cream cheese with a ten-foot pole. Never. They’d sooner have their gums scraped than eat cheesecake or spread cream cheese on a cracker. But they love my mashed potatoes. And they ate them for quite awhile before Michael ever got wind of the secret ingredient. He cried for a few days when he found out he’d consumed cream cheese, but now he doesn’t even bat an eye. (Madison will NEVER find out the secret) In terms of culinary repertoire, it’s all about baby steps with these people.

To make the texture just right, we need to add a little Half & Half.

Hey, I COULD have used heavy cream. But this is a low-fat dish, people. I have to make healthy choices. Begin with 1/2 cup. You can always add another splash later.

It’s time to mash away again! If your butter and cream cheese were softened to begin with, everything should come together perfectly.

Okay. That’s the basic mashed potato recipe. From here, you can add whatever seasonings you want: onion powder, salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic salt…even mashed roasted garlic cloves. I like to keep it pretty simple. And Lawry’s, to me, is just right. It provides salt content as well as just a hint of some other flavors. Add black pepper. Stir everything together.

Voila! The perfect mashed potatoes.


Trish said...

They are delicious!

Louise said...

Have mercy. These recipes make me hungry.