Mashed potatoes can be the most delicious side dish, or can be a starchy, mushy, tasteless mess. Let’s use this foolproof method to make some that everyone will rave about, whether you add gravy or not.
I use good old Russets mainly, although Yukon Gold work well and lend a beautiful color to them. It just depends on what you have on hand. But I don’t recommend red potatoes (use those for potato salads).
I’ve even quit getting out the electric beaters to make these, using a manual masher instead. But if you feel the need to eliminate little bits of un-mashed spuds in the dish, by all means beat ’em up if you want.
Start by peeling about one potato per person, dropping them in a pot of water as you peel them to keep the air off. (The air makes them turn brown, which doesn’t hurt them, but white looks better, I guess.) After they are all peeled, I take them out of the water one by one, chop them into irregular chunks, and drop them back in the water. Each chunk should be golf ball size or slightly smaller. If they vary too drastically in size, the little ones will get mushy before the big ones cook.
Rinse the spuds off, and add fresh water just to cover them. Sprinkle with salt, and put over medium high heat. You can turn them down a little when they start to boil, but keep ’em cooking. After ten or fifteen minutes, depending on your altitude (you did take physics, didn’t you?) they should be getting tender. Poke them with the tip of a knife or a long fork to test. When they are soft to the center, turn off the heat and drain the potatoes. Let them dry slightly, and add a tablespoon of butter per spud, or more.
Cover them while the butter melts, and get ready to mash, either by hand or by machine. Stir them as you mash them, to incorporate the butter throughout. Now add milk (or preferable heavy cream) a few ounces at a time, mashing and stirring until you get the consistency you want.
Add salt and white pepper for seasoning. They can be served as is, with gravy or sauce, or with condiments like chives, cheese, or bacon bits. If you stir in chopped green onions, you get an Irish dish called Champ. Serve that on St. Patty’s day with corned beef!