Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Perfect Mashed Potatoes

When your last name is O'Brien...people expect you to do wonders with potatoes. And, at least in my case, that stereotype is true--potatoes are one of my favorite things in the world. Fact. 

When I was younger, I refused to eat hamburgers from fast food restaurants. Instead, I forced my dad to stop at Wendys (he was not a fan of...well, anything at Wendys actually) so that I could get a baked potato with cheese. If you follow me on Twitter (@seasaltnpepa), you'll see from my pictures that a baked potato is a frequent side dish. I make mean roasted red potatoes, rely on a baked potato with some topping when my budget gets to tight, and get inordinately excited to try new recipes like this one.

But, lets be honest, you're no good at cooking potatoes if you can't make the perfect mashed potato...if your style of mashed potato is smooth and creamy. Actually, if I'm cooking and a guest's style was chunky, I'd either a) tell them to shove it, I'm the one cooking, b) make a chunky version to be served alongside the smooth one or c) just make a chunky version -- because, let us be honest here, I like pretty much every mashed potato (eOXO SteeL Potato Masher (Google Affiliate Ad)xcept those gummy ones. ICK!)

This is my family's recipe, one that is managed every Thanksgiving by my mother with the muscle supplied by my brother. The two of them together make a consistently delicious mashed potato that is a feature on plates that, in most houses, are crammed with turkey and stuffing. Anything that can compete with stuffing is good in my book!


5 lbs. of yukon gold potatoes
Full stick of butter
1.5 cups of half-and-half (to be healthier, use 2% milk. We switch back and forth depending on who did the shopping)


1. Cut the potatoes into quarters. Load into a large pot and add water, making sure the potatoes are completely covered. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat. Cook for about 30 minutes--potatoes should be soft when pierced with a knife and are obviously done if they start falling apart.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, remove the butter from the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature. Immediately before the potatoes are cooked and drained, warm 1.5 cups of half-and-half to room temperature.

3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and return to pan. Using a hand masher, begin mashing the potatoes.

4. In the course of mashing with the hand masher, add about 2/3 of the stick of butter, a cup or so of cream and 1 tsp salt.

5. Once the potatoes are pretty mashed, stop if you like them chunky. If you like them creamy, use an electric mixer and continue to mash to the consistency you prefer. Make sure to scrape the sides of the pot! Continue to taste and add more salt, half-and-half or butter, to your taste.

Enjoy! Also, that my darlings, in the second to last picture, is a 20+ year old hand mixer...pea green! Can you believe it? And it still works great. If only thing were made the same...

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