One would think that mashed potatoes are an incredibly easy, simple side dish that does not require a recipe. Just boil some potatoes, mash them up, add a little butter and milk, season them, and you’re set, right? That’s what I thought, until we started experimenting and researching. It turns out that a few slight deviations in preparation make the difference between an incredible, flavorful concoction and a bland, watery disaster. Try this method next time you make mashed potatoes and taste the difference.
See the end for a note about converting this into a vegan recipe.
There are a few keys to this recipe:
First, boil the potatoes still in their skins. Do not peel them until they are done cooking. There are a few good reasons for this. Mainly, the skins help keep the potatoes from absorbing too much of the water that they are submerged in. Without skins to protect them, the potatoes become very waterlogged, making for runny mashed potatoes. Also, in addition to holding water out, the skins hold a few important things in. Boiling water leeches a lot of flavor and nutrients from skinless potatoes. The skin of a potato helps it hold onto that hearty potato flavor while boiling, and it will also retain a lot more protein.
Secondly, the type of dairy used makes a difference. Milk is not quite rich enough, and waters down your potatoes. To get a perfect creamy consistency, use half and half or cream (cream will be very, very rich).
Also, surprisingly, the order in which you add ingredients actually matters. If you add cream or half and half first, you will end up with very sticky, heavy potatoes, but if it is added after the butter your potatoes will be much creamier. There is a good reason for this. Half and half has water in it. When water interacts with the starch of the potatoes, it becomes like glue. But if you coat the starch with butter first, it protects it from the water, and your half and half will work much better to make a creamy mix.
Gourmet Mashed Potatoes with Toasted Garlic Recipe
- about 20-24 small to medium sized garlic cloves (about 2/3 cup) still in their skins.*
- 2 lbs worth whole russet potatoes, still in their skins
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup half and half or cream if making chunky mashed potatoes, or 1 cup half and half or cream if making smooth mashed potatoes.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- ground black pepper, to taste
*The garlic cloves should be fairly equal in size or they will not toast evenly.
1. Toast the garlic. Place garlic cloves (still in their skins) in a covered skillet (no oil) over lowest heat setting. Turn the cloves frequently by giving the skillet a shake. Toast until all cloves have dark brown spots all around and are slightly soft. This should take a little more than 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, still covered, until fully softened (about 20 minutes). Meanwhile:
2. Prepare and cook the potatoes. Scrub the potatoes but leave them in their skins. Place them in a large boiling pot, and cover with water an inch over them. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let cook about twenty to 30 minutes, until tender. They are done when you can easily stick a fork into their centers. Drain.
3. Peel garlic and potatoes. Peel the garlic and cut off the tough root end of each clove. The potato skins should come off fairly easily, using a knife. Cut the potatoes into chunks and return them to the (now dry) large boiling pot, along with the peeled garlic cloves.
4. Mash the potatoes and garlic with a potato masher or a fork. This will produce somewhat chunky mashed potatoes, but you still want them mashed well enough that you’ll be able to stir them with a wire whisk later. Alternately, for smoother, silkier mashed potatoes, you can run the potatoes and garlic through a food mill or potato ricer.
5. Melt the butter and warm the half and half or cream. This step is important for consistency. (Remember that you need 3/4 cup half and half or cream if you have made chunky mashed potatoes, but 1 full cup of half and half or cream for smooth mashed potatoes that have been run through a mill or ricer.)
6. Drizzle the melted butter over the potatoes and thoroughly mix it in. You want it to coat all of the potatoes so that the half and half will not react with the starch and become sticky and glue-like.
7. Using a wire whisk, mix in the warmed half and half, coating the potatoes thoroughly and bringing them to a creamy consistency. Add salt and ground black pepper to taste, mixing well.
8. Serve immediately.
Toasted garlic mashed potatoes taste great with gravy or butter over top. Sprinkle minced parsley over top for garnish. Mashed potatoes are a great side dish, but they can also work as a good base for other dishes, and can sometimes work as a replacement for rice or other starches in the right sort of dish. These mashed potatoes go beautifully with chicken Contadina or mushroom Contadina.
An Alternative for Vegans:
Though they won’t taste quite as creamy, a vegan version of this recipe can be made quite easily. Substitute vegan margarine or expeller-pressed oil spread for butter. Make sure to melt your butter substitute before adding it. Instead of half and half, try to find unsweetened soy half and half substitute. If that’s not possible, use about 2/3 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk instead. Add the soymilk or soy half and half slowly. You may not need all of it. Too much soymilk will make your mashed potatoes very watery.