I think that the world is divided into two types of people: those who prefer lumps in their mashed potatoes, and those that don’t. I fall into the later category. I like my mashed potatoes to be lump-free, skins off, not “smashed” potatoes, but “mashed” potatoes. And I’m going to share with you my trick for really fluffy, not-puréed-but-smooth mashed potatoes. See, if you were to do something crazy like put your cooked potatoes in a food processor to purée, you’d get a gluey mess. And if you use a potato masher, you often get lumps. To avoid these two extremes, I use a potato ricer. It’s a little gadget that forces the cooked potatoes into a whole bunch of tiny holes. The little pieces of potato kind of look like grains of rice, hence the name “potato ricer”. I have a really old-school potato ricer that is quite small, but I have seen larger, more modern ricers that look a lot easier to operate and that will hold a lot more cooked potato, especially good if you’re cooking for a crowd. (I know that you might not have a potato ricer on hand, and I certainly don’t want to tell you what to do – but seriously, go out and buy a potato ricer.) The other real key to good mashed potatoes is salt…and lots of it. Don’t be afraid. Potatoes require a lot of salt and that’s just the way it is.
I like Yukon Gold potatoes because they are starchy and creamy at the same time. You could substitute Russets if you can’t find Yukons.
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces and softened
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more for salting the potato water)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2 inch chunks.
- Put the potatoes and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft (pierce them with the tip of a paring knife – if you don’t feel any resistance, they are done).
- In the meantime, combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan. Heat on low until just warm.
- Drain the potato chunks in a colander and return to the saucepan. Over medium heat, briefly heat the potatoes until the remaining water has evaporated (about 1 minute). Turn off the heat.
- Put the potato chunks into a medium bowl. Using the ricer, rice the potato chunks into the saucepan. Try to do this quickly so the potatoes stay really hot.
- When all the potato chunks have been riced, turn the heat on low and add the butter. Stir until the butter has become incorporated into the potatoes. Add the salt and the pepper.
- Stir in the milk-cream mixture. Taste and correct for salt.
- To keep mashed potatoes warm before you serve them – put the mashed potatoes in a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. (Cover with plastic wrap or foil if you need to hold them for a while.) You may need to add additional milk or cream to thin them out, as they tend to get stiffer the longer you hold them.