A warm, fluffy, creamy bowl of mashed potatoes is a must on any Thanksgiving buffet. Some of us like them pure with just milk, butter and a pinch of sea salt, while others brighten them up with fresh herbs and cheese.
Here, we’re sharing a basic recipe and a step-by-step guide to perfect mashed potatoes — whatever flavors you choose, this technique will achieve the ideal texture every time.
Classic Mashed Potatoes
2 1/2 lb. (1.25 kg.) high-starch potatoes such as russet or medium-starch potatoes such as Yukon gold
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbs. (3 oz./90 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) milk or half-and-half, warmed
1/8 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
|Prepare the potatoes|
When using high-starch potatoes such as russets, consider cooking them with the skin on. High-starch potatoes have dry, absorbent flesh, which means they readily take on cooking water if they are peeled and cut up. Whether of not you peel the potatoes, scrub and rinse them well.
|Cook the potatoes|
Put the potatoes in a 5-qt. (5-l.) pot and add water to cover them by 1 inch (2.5 cm.). Add 1 teaspoon of the salt to the water to season the potatoes. Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer the potatoes until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 25-30 minutes.
|Peel the potatoes|
Drain the potatoes, then transfer them to a cutting board. Using the tip of a paring knife, slit the skin of each potato lengthwise to create a starting place for peeling. Working with 1 potato at a time, and using a fork to hold it steady, use tongs to peel off the skin. Pu the peeled potatoes back into the empty cooking pot, cover and set aside.
|Mash or rice the potatoes|
For chunky mashed potatoes, use a potato masher to press down on the potatoes, turning the masher a little each time and working your way around the pot as needed to break up the potatoes. Alternatively, for smooth mashed potatoes, pass the potatoes through a ricer back into the pot.
|Add the butter and milk|
Place the pot with the slightly mashed potatoes over low heat. Switch to a wooden spoon and mix the butter into the potatoes. Next, pour in the warm milk, adding it in 1/4-cup (2-fl. oz./60-ml.) increments. Stir in just enough milk until the potatoes are as light and smooth as you would like. Mix in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the white pepper.
|Adjust the seasonings|
Taste the potatoes. If you feel they taste flat, stir in a little more salt and/or pepper, a pinch at a time. If you like creamier mashed potatoes, add a bit more milk or butter. Mix in each addition a little bit at a time and taste again until you are happy with the balance of flavors and the consistency. Stop mixing as soon as you reach the texture and flavors you like. Overmixing the potatoes will cause them to be gluey. Serves 4-6.
Quick mashed potatoes: Cut the potatoes into 2-inch (5-cm.) chunks. Follow the directions above, but reduce the cooking time to 15-18 minutes.
Mashed potatoes with olive oil and garlic: In a small frying pan over low heat, warm 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and saute until the oil is infused with garlic flavor but the garlic has not browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml.) milk until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Stir in the olive oil-garlic mixture and set aside. Follow the directions above, replacing the milk and butter with the olive oil-garlic mixture.
Mashed potatoes with pesto: Follow the directions above. In step 5, add 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) basil pesto, or more to taste, with the milk and butter.