I just made mashed potatoes with caramelized onions last weekend to accompany the smoked chicken dish I developed so it may seem a bit much to post more so soon after but I had more to cook and it got me thinking. Five pounds of potatoes in this house can see me easily end up pitching some for not getting to them soon enough as I’m no longer feeding my kids anymore, well, not daily at least. Even when my children were younger though, mashed potatoes were not something we often had and I think I know why I find myself enjoying them more now. For me right now, I just love these mashed potatoes with garlic, green onion and goat cheese. Just love them!
Call them smashed or rustic or whatever suits your fancy but I find I just love them more when they are not peeled and when the end result has more texture. There is a decided difference between smashed potatoes and lumpy mashed potatoes…they are most definitely not the same thing at all!
I admit that my first foray into not peeling potatoes for mashing was because I thought it such a time saver. People might say that lazy people like rustic mashed potatoes but I take umbrage with that. Time savings was surely my impetus as a single mom…lazy was something I don’t think would be ascribed to me. Even when many, MANY years ago I used instant mashed potatoes. Oops, did I just say that?
I recall that I first started doing ‘smashed’ potatoes using regular Russet potatoes and thought they were pretty good but soon moved to using Yukon Gold potatoes for a period of time. In both instances, it always seemed the skin was just a bit too much and once I starting using Round Red Potatoes I had found my own personal nirvana. Most recipes call for the higher starch varieties that I started with which is perfect for fluffy mashed potatoes but I prefer a lower starch variety; they absorb less water during cooking and I think have more ‘potato’ flavor than the others and I must admit I do like the extra boost of color. I liked that long before the consideration of today where that bit of color adds something to the photos I take of a completed dish.
So for me…I just love everything about a more rustic course of action. But I have friends that are just the opposite; they prefer a smoother, creamier consistency. So my best is certainly not theirs and it seems, like many choices that are so personally subjective, the truth is that the whole notion of the best mashed potatoes is really about what is BEST for you. Peeled or not peeled. High starch or not. Butter or not. Sour cream, bacon on none of that nonsense…I think in the long run, it’s impossible to define one recipe for mashed potatoes as the best; it’s all about personal preference. For these Mashed Potatoes I used a 4 oz package of Cypress Grove Sgt. Pepper goat cheese and chopped scallions. Not just pretty but a very subtle kick from the pepper. Double yum.
So I’ll share some of my secrets for success and you decide to peel or not peel, smooth or rustic…they are all good!
Mashed Potato Basics
I’ve always started my potatoes in cold water that I bring to a boil. I’ve been told, wrong or right that opening up the hot water tap to use for boiling potatoes, veggies or pasta adds more mineral from both the pipes and hot water heater so that’s always been my reason. But I’ve found there are other reasons too:
- Starting the potatoes in cold water allows the temperature of the potatoes to rise slowly and makes for more even cooking.
- If you throw potatoes into already boiling water, the outside starch granules will gelatinize on contact with the water which can impact cooking by blocking the water from penetrating further into the potato.
- Do add salt and other seasoning ingredients to the cold water you are using for boiling. I typically do salt and pepper but I have added other spices too.
- What tool should I use to mash my potatoes? There are several available for mashing potatoes and I can’t judge one as better as the other; I’ve used them all…except that in my current rustic mode I no longer put them through a ricer or mix in a mixer. But you can.
- A wire masher. This is what I have; it’s from Cutco and has always done a pretty good job. The coil gets filled with potatoes and I have to push it out often though.
- A flat masher; it looks like a manhole cover with several holes…pushing the potatoes through the holes results in the ‘mashed’ quality.
- A potato ricer; a tool that presses the potatoes to achieve a smooth consistency. It’s sort of a garlic press for potatoes.
- The electric mixer.
- And my latest? I used my meat mallet today! I’ve found that the waxy texture of the red potatoes might make it a bit harder for my coil type tool to work so I decided to just ‘mash’ them but with something that would still give my the rustic texture I prefer. It worked so well I wish I had tried it years ago!
- However you make them, add the butter and mix it in before adding other dairy. The butter will coat the starch granules and works to keep them intact and not develop a gluey consistency that can happen from the liquid portion of your recipe. So add your butter and thoroughly incorporate it and then add your milk and/or cheese ingredients.
- Get creative with other ingredients. I love these lemon mashed potatoes but have added bacon, the aforementioned caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, sour cream, mascarpone and/or cream cheese and a constant array of different herbs.
- As much as I love mashed potatoes when they are just made, I almost love them for breakfast the next day just as much. I add a beaten egg for every two cups of potatoes, make them into patties and fry them on a griddle. After browning one side, add some grated Parmesan or cheddar on top and let melt while the other side browns.