Before you make mashed potatoes, it’s good to understand why certain potatoes work better for mashed potatoes, which is why mashed potato recipes list the kinds of potatoes to use (usually russet and Yukon Gold). Waxy potatoes, like red potatoes and white potatoes, hold their shape making them perfect for scalloped potato recipes. But waxy potatoes are not good for mashed potatoes. Because of their low starch content, they will have a gluey or gummy texture when they are mashed. Russets can too if they are over mixed.
“For a cook, why does a potato’s starch content matter?
High-starch potatoes, such as russets (baking potatoes), have densely packed starch cells that swell and separate from one another when cooked, resulting in a dry, fluffy texture. High-starch potatoes also make creamy mashed potatoes and french fries with a flaky interior. On the other hand, low-starch potatoes, such as round red- or white-skinned potatoes, have moister, loosely packed starch cells that don’t separate from one another, so these potatoes retain their shape better, even when boiled. That’s why they work so well in salads and stews. New potatoes, or creamers, are also low-starch and slightly sweeter than other low-starch potatoes because they are harvested young, before all of their sugars have converted into starch. Finally, medium-starch potatoes, such as Yukon Golds and Yellow Finns, occupy the middle ground. They’re known as all-purpose potatoes because they have a moderate starch content, which makes them suitable for any cooking technique.”
Fine Cooking, “The Science of Cooking Potatoes”
Mashed potatoes will absorb more of the cream and butter watery if they aren’t over cooked which makes them watery, and if you drain them well and then return them back to the pot to remove all the water. Other than using the right kind of potato and these tips, all the other options listed in many recipes work great. You can leave the skins on if you like. You can use whole milk, cream, or half and half, less or more butter, and more or less salt and pepper.
For a turkey dinner, I prefer a basic mashed potatoes with the gravy. But if you want to jazz it up a bit you can add a little parmesan cheese or grated white cheddar, and you will often see cream cheese and sour cream used in place of some of the milk, as well as chopped chives, green onions or a sprinkle of paprika on the top.
This dish can be made the day before, refrigerated and reheated gently.
Grandma’s Mashed Potatoes
- 4 pounds (about 6 5″ to 6″) russet potatoes, peeled and cut down the middle and then cut in 1″ slices
- 1 1/2 cup milk, cream or half and half
- 1 peeled large garlic clove (opt)
- 3/4 cup butter, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Cut the butter in pieces (reserve 2 tablespoons of butter) and place them in the mixing bowl to come to room temperature. Fill a large pot 3/4 full of water, adding a few shakes of salt. Place potatoes cold water, turn on heat and bring to a boil, and boil about 15 minutes until tender but still firm. Heat the milk/cream with the peeled garlic clove in a small sauce pan. Pour the potatoes into a colander and shake out all the water, then return them back to the empty pot over the heat, tossing the potatoes for 30 seconds to a minute to allow all the moisture to evaporate.
Discard the garlic from the cream. Run the potatoes through a potato ricer into the mixing bowl with the butter, then incorporate the warm cream, and salt and pepper, into the riced potatoes and butter using a large spoon or blend the mixture on low speed, blending only briefly so they stay fluffy and don’t start to get gluey*. Taste for salt and pepper.
You can cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a pot of hot water to keep them warm (“bain-marie”) or transfer the potatoes to a casserole with a lid and place on a warming tray. Put the reserved 2 tablespoons of butter in the center of the potatoes, and sprinkle lightly with pepper before covering.
For a cheese mashed potatoes, add 1 cup of grated gourmet white cheddar cheese.
*Russet potatoes will also get gluey if they are over mixed which is why you don’t want to use a food processor for mashed potatoes like you do for mashed cauliflower.