Like so many other comfort foods, mashed potatoes need to be just so to do their job - to make you feel good, inside and out. But, chameleon-like, they can conform to any taste or mood.
Like yours fluffy? Choose brown, rough-skinned russets, which can take a beating. The starch in potatoes is contained in tiny packets called potato buds. When the packets are broken, the starch oozes out and the potatoes become gluey. Russets have tough packets that resist breaking.
Prefer the flavor and denser texture of thin-skinned (white or red) or golden-fleshed varieties? Although they have more delicate potato buds, they can be mashed, if you're gentle.
Use a potato masher or a ricer (it looks like a giant garlic press) for the best results with any potato. An electric mixer also works well, but avoid overbeating thin-skinned varieties. And don't use a food processor on any potato unless you want glue.
Add liquid and fat for a soft, creamy texture; the kinds and amounts you use determine how rich the dish is. Then rev it up with seasonings to fit your whim.
More mashed potato recipes
Mashed Potatoes, As You Like Them
PREP AND COOK TIME: About 45 minutes
Notes: Other liquids you can use: half-and-half (light cream), buttermilk (be careful--it curdles if boiled), vegetable broth, or the potato cooking water. Other fats and cheeses: extra-virgin olive oil, margarine, or herb-flavor Boursin or Rondelé cheese.
Makes: 7 to 8 cups; 7 or 8 servings
3 pounds russet, Yukon Gold, or thin-skinned red or white potatoes
1 1/4 to 1 3/4 cups milk or fat-skimmed chicken broth (see notes)
2 to 8 tablespoons (1/16 to 1/4 lb.) butter, regular or nonfat sour cream, cream cheese, or neufchâtel (light cream) cheese, at room temperature (see notes)
Seasoning choices (optional; suggestions follow)
Salt and pepper
1. In a covered 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, bring 1 quart water to a boil.
2. Peel and rinse potatoes (or if desired, scrub potatoes and leave skin on). Cut potatoes into 1-inch chunks.
3. Add potatoes to boiling water, cover, and return to a boil, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes mash easily, 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat milk or other liquid in a microwave-safe container in a microwave oven at full power (100%) just until steaming (don't boil). Or warm in a 1- to 11/2-quart pan over medium heat.
5. Drain liquid from potatoes (save liquid if using instead of milk). Mash potatoes with a potato masher or a mixer; or press (peeled only), a portion at a time, through a ricer into another pan. Add butter or other fat, seasoning choices, and hot milk, a little at a time, and mix or beat until potatoes have desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If potatoes have cooled, stir occasionally over low heat until hot; or warm in a microwave oven.
Per serving: 172 cal., 23% (40 cal.) from fat; 4.2 g protein; 4.4 g fat (2.6 g sat.); 29 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 60 mg sodium; 13 mg chol.
Roasted garlic. Cut 2 heads garlic (3 oz. each) in half crosswise. Brush cut sides generously with olive oil and set, cut side down, in an 8- to 9-inch square pan. Bake in a 350° oven until garlic is golden brown on bottom and oozing
sticky juices, about 35 minutes (about 30 minutes in a convection oven). Slip a thin spatula under garlic to release from
pan. Pluck or squeeze cloves from peel and add to potatoes in step 5 (above).
Per serving of potatoes: 210 cal., 24% (50 cal.) from fat; 5.4 g protein; 5.6 g fat (2.7 g sat.); 35 g carbo (2.9 g fiber); 63 mg sodium; 13 mg chol.
Green onion. Add 1 cup minced green onions (including tops) to milk in step 4, and heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add to potatoes
in step 5.
Per serving of potatoes: 176 cal., 23% (41 cal.) from fat; 4.4 g protein; 4.5 g fat (2.6 g sat.); 30 g carbo (2.9 g fiber); 62 mg sodium; 13 mg chol.
Cheese. Add 2 cups (1/2 lb.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese or 1 cup (1/4 lb.) crumbled gorgonzola or grated parmesan cheese to potatoes in step 5.
Per serving of potatoes: 287 cal., 44% (126 cal.) from fat; 11 g protein; 14 g fat (8.6 g sat.); 30 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 236 mg sodium; 43 mg chol.
Provençal. Add 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1 or 2 cloves garlic (peeled and pressed or minced), 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or dried thyme, and 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel to potatoes in step 5.
Per serving of potatoes: 174 cal., 23% (40 cal.) from fat; 4.3 g protein; 4.4 g fat (2.6 g sat.); 30 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 61 mg sodium; 13 mg chol.
Chipotle chili. Add 2 or 3 finely minced canned chipotle chilies in sauce (wearing rubber gloves, remove seeds for less heat) to potatoes in step 5.
Per serving of potatoes: 176 cal., 23% (41 cal.) from fat; 4.2 g protein; 4.6 g fat (2.6 g sat.); 30 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 91 mg sodium; 13 mg chol.
Wasabi. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons prepared wasabi to potatoes in step 5.
Per serving of potatoes: 173 cal., 23% (40 cal.) from fat; 4.3 g protein; 4.4 g fat (2.6 g sat.); 29 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 60 mg sodium; 13 mg chol.