Mashed potatoes, how did your grannie mash em?

I don’t know about you but sometimes I just get a hankering for a big mound of fluffy white mashed potatoes on my plate slathered with butter. They can be garlic mashed, or oh-oh! potatoes on the half shell which are mashed baked potatoes stuffed back in their shells and baked again (stopping to wipe up drool here).

All alone on a plate. What was I thinking when I shot this one? Where is the melting butter? The side of ribs? The salad?

There are potatoes mashed with milk and butter and others mashed with buttermilk.

Then there are these radicals who mix them with mashed carrots or turnips or something.

Just last night I had to make some to top the shepherd’s pie with. (Only I cheated, since I am cooking outdoors and used a box of dried, so that doesn’t count. Shh, don’t tell anyone.) I usually use whole real undehydrated potatoes because the water they cook in is great to use as the water in your bread recipes. Second only to using potatoes themselves in your bread. But that is my secret ingredient so I can’t talk about that right now.

Then  there is the whole “how to mash them” thing. Do you just smash them with a potato masher? Do you whip them up with an electric hand mixer or do you use a potato ricer?

I say yes to them all. Whatever works for you. Whatever tools you have. Take off your shoes and dance in them with your toesies if that is your secret to success.  (I can just picture you picking white potato from between your toes, eww.)

In this post I will share some recipes and tips for great spuds.

First, the way my grannie made them:

First, use Russet potatoes, or Yukon Gold. Not reds or little whites. They have too little starch in them to make good mashed potatoes. (but those little ones are great for potato salad or boiled potatoes because they hold their shape so well.)

Peel the potatoes, how many is up to you, dice up into about 1″ cubes, put in a saucepan and cover with water. Add lots of salt, (unless you plan on using it for bread, then a little less) put a lid on it and cook on high heat until it starts to boil. After that, tip the lid to release steam and turn down the heat so it doesn’t boil up all over the stove. Cook until a fork goes into them easily. Drain the potatoes in a colander or just use the lid of the pot to hold back the potato bits while the wonderful bread water goes whooshing down the drain.

Add some more salt, butter, again depending on how many you made. Lets say I am cooking 4 medium potatoes. I might put in a half a cube of butter. Then add the whole milk, just some for now and start beating with a hand electric mixer. Add more milk as needed to get them fluffy and soft, but not swimming in milk. Be careful because you can’t take it out once its in there. Don’t overmix or it will get gluey.

Now scoop them into a serving bowl and away you go. Its simple, old-fashioned and would make the mashed potato police shudder at using a hand mixer. But there you go.

Another recipe:

Peel, dice the potatoes. Cook in chicken broth or part broth/part water. Add some cloves of garlic.

When mixing, add a big blob of cream cheese with the butter and milk. Mix the cooked garlic cloves right in with the potatoes. This is extra wonderful company potatoes. You might want to warm the butter and milk before mixing in to keep things warm.

 Yet another mashed potato recipe:

This one with buttermilk. It took years for me to get over the squeemishness of putting buttermilk in potatoes. I love it in pancakes. Adore it in crumbcakes. Swoon at the thought of buttermilk bread. But for some reason I was afraid if I put buttermilk in mashed potatoes I would end up throwing the whole batch away because no one would like it.

Ha! Shows just how much I know.

We all loved it and the boys didn’t even notice a difference. So set your fears aside. This is spectacularly rich, creamy and flavorful. You will not be throwing this into the trash (or feeding it to the chickens or pigs).

Lets say you cook up 2 lbs. of russets or Yukon Gold potatoes until tender, add 6 Tbsp of melted and cooled butter to 2/3 cup of room temp. buttermilk. The butter helps keep the buttermilk from curdling at the high heat of the potatoes. Mash the potatoes first, then fold in the liquids, season with salt and pepper.

What does Americas Test Kitchen have to say?

(besides giving us the above recipe in one of their 2005 Cooks Illustrated magazines)

After making gallons of mashed potatoes in every conceivable way (including, I bet, the stomping method)
here are their conclusions:


That’s the best way to get the tastiest and fluffiest mashed potatoes.

Steam them in a colander over a large pot, like a Dutch oven, that has boiling water in it.

So first, put some water into a large pot, just enough so you can set the colander in it without the potatoes being in the water, and bring to a boil while you peel and cut up the potatoes. Put the potatoes in the colander and rinse them in cold water. This rinses off the starch that might make them too dense.

Put the colander into the Dutch oven  or large pot with the boiling water and put on a lid. With less water it is important not to let it all steam out. Turn the heat down a little to keep it at a slow boil. Check to make sure it does not boil away, or add more boiling water if it does. So steam on a medium high heat.

Now here is their trick: After 10 minutes, take the colander of potatoes out and rinse them off until they are cooled, about 1-2 minutes! Them put them back in the steamer pot and cook until they are tender, about 10-15 minutes more.

The idea is by not being in the water, they do not absorb too much water and take away the flavor of the potato. By rinsing, its gets rid of some of the starch while leaving enough to fluff up nicely.

They suggest a potato ricer or food mill, neither of which I have. (In spite of my gajillion tools). Then they stir in warm milk, melted butter and salt and pepper. I think I want to run out and pick up a potato ricer right this minute! They are not expensive, under $20 for perfectly good ones. Or of course as much as $30 if you so desire.

And now my favorite potato: Twice baked:

Bake your russet potatoes the usual way. I wash them, poke them with a fork a few times and put in a 375 oven for about an hour, squeezing it with my mitted hand to see if it is soft yet. If not, put in for a few more minutes.

Remove from oven and set on cutting board. Now there are 2 ways you can do this next step. Either cut the potato in half (which is why this recipe is also called “potatoes on the half shell”) or slice off a bit of the top so you can scoop out the hot potato.

Either way, scoop out the potato (carefully, don’t burn yourself) into a large mixing bowl. You will treat this much the same as mashed potatoes, except they have not absorbed any water and are very potato tasty.

I usually add butter, milk, sour cream, cooked and crumbled bacon bits, grated cheddar cheese, salt and pepper and some diced scallions. Mix this all up and carefully scoop back into the potato skins. Lay these skins on a baking sheet (I like to line it with parchment for easy clean up). Add a little more shredded cheese on top and pop back into an oven to melt the cheese and reheat the potatoes. Potato nirvana!

These can be made ahead, wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for later. They are great to pull out and heat up for lunch. Or leave out the bacon and it is a meal (with maybe a salad) for your meatless nights. (around here that means Fridays).

I have dug through my photos and cannot find a picture of any twice baked potatoes. So if you make some, send me a picture and I will re-post this article with your snap in it (and your credit of course). If you send me a notice in the comments section I can send you my email address. (unless it is around here somewhere or you already know it.)

So there you have it. Some know how on potatoes, both the way grannie made them and the way we make them today. Feel free to add your comments on how you make them if it differs. I know there are a million more potato recipes out there and I just don’t have the room or the time right now.

Spuds unite!




2 thoughts on “Mashed potatoes, how did your grannie mash em?

  1. I do the steaming thing and use a ricer because Steve is a lump-o-phobe. If you heat the milk that you add to the spuds you get the very best results. I love potatoes in all of their delicious forms and we buy a 10kg sack of potatoes every fortnight and they usually don’t make it through the 14 days and there are only 2 of us eating them! Gnocchi, baked potatoes, mash, steamed, wedges, oven fries and so much more! I would have to totally rethink my food ethos without them :). Sometimes we (shock horror) leave the skins on when we mash them! No problemo…nutrient addition 🙂

  2. I know what you mean. For a while my daughter was on a special diet and could eat hardly anything including potatoes. But she could eat sweet potatoes. I dont know how long I would last without potatoes. But have not had the courage to make gnocchi yet. Have you and how did it go?

I'd like to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s