How to Make Great Mashed Potatoes

In years past, I never gave potato mashing the attention it deserved. I just threw in a little butter and milk, mashed roughly with a hand masher and took them to the table. This year, I put a little time into experimenting and investigating and found some tricks that easily elevated the mashed potato into a something quite special.

Cooking technique was probably the most important discovery. Typically, potatoes are boiled in salted water for mashed potatoes, which is fine if you don’t use too much water, which tends to “leach out” the flavor. Being moderate with the water, however, makes it easy to burn the potatoes because the water quickly evaporates or gets soaked up by the potatoes–and there is no worse smell, taste or mess than burned potatoes.

Steaming retains the flavor, but it’s also difficult to get the potatoes uniformly soft, especially without scorching the pot.

This recipe uses a slow cooker to avoid these difficulties. The potatoes get soft enough and stay moist enough to make great mashed potatoes, without losing any flavor or running the risk of burning. Plus, you can keep them perfectly warm until just when you’re ready to mash.

The technique is simple: Scrub potatoes and either dry with a clean dish towel or allow to air dry. Place in a 3.5 or 4 qt. oval slow cooker. Cover cooker and cook on high heat, 5-7 hours, until potatoes are very tender (clear to the middle) when stuck with a fork.

When potatoes are done, remove from slow cooker using a large turning fork. Wipe inside of slow cooker with a clean, damp rag, then butter liner. Use a paring knife to cut potatoes into 1-2” cubes and return to slow cooker, then mash as directed in recipe.

What if you forget to put the potatoes on in the morning? The following recipe shares a microwave alternative that is just as good, but a little more time consuming.

P.S. Also note that there’s nothing unhealthy about these mashed potatoes.  The humble potato often gets a bad rap, but that’s usually because it’s combined with silly amounts of butter and cream.  Here, we’re using olive oil in a moderate amount (some is used just for roasting the garlic), we using milk instead of cream and we’re leaving the skins on, where a good portion of the vitamins and minerals reside.  Just don’t eat the whole batch yourself!

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 head garlic, roasted (to make about 2 Tbsp. roasted garlic paste, more or less to taste)
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 to ½ cup milk or plain soy milk

The night or morning before: Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Rub a head of garlic with about ½ Tbsp. of olive oil. Place inside a garlic roaster or small glass baking dish with a lid. Cover and bake about 45-60 minutes, until garlic head is soft when squeezed from the sides.

To remove the pulp: Once garlic has cooled slightly slice off root end of garlic head with a serrated knife, being sure to slice across every clove. Squeeze garlic from skins. Alternatively, if garlic has cooled completely, the roasted cloves might just pop out whole once the root end of the head is sliced off. Place roasted garlic in cup of immersion blender.

Add remaining olive oil and 1/3 cup milk to garlic and puree with blender. Reserve.

  • 2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (about 6 medium potatoes)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cut unpeeled potatoes into roughly 1-2” cubes, place in casserole dish, drizzle with about 1 Tbsp. olive oil and toss with hands to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover dish and microwave in 4-5 minute intervals, stirring after each interval, until potatoes are uniformly tender. It may take as long as 20-30 minutes, depending on your microwave’s power level.

Once potatoes are cooked, transfer to a deep, medium-sized bowl. Mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Pour in milk mixture, sprinkle in salt and pepper and mash another minute or so to combine thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired. Add a little more milk if potatoes are too thick.

If potatoes are too lumpy, smooth with an immersion blender (but never a food processor), being careful to use it very briefly so potatoes don’t become gluey. Just go up and down once, through each section of potatoes.

For best results, serve immediately. Enjoy!

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