Secrets to Mashed Potatoes from a Master Chef
After reading this email from Master Chef Kuntze, I realized how much there is I can learn about cooking. I have my own Perfect Mashed Potatoes recipe that I've been using for years, but now I have a better understanding of the basics. As Chef Hartmut says in my Novice to Pro Interview, "Learn methods instead of recipes. Perfect the basics."
On Preparing Mashed Potatoes
Dear Reluctant Gourmet,
It all boils down to the basics. Kennebeque, Yukon gold, yellow Finn or Russets, all starchy as opposed to waxy potatoes are fine.
Dairy product of your choice. I prefer milk, regular 4%. It has to be scalded and cannot be added until the potatoes are mashed and lumps are gone.
How much is hard to say because the starch content of the potatoes varies with type and time of year, even storage (sugar will convert to starch or vice versa, depending on storage temperature). Usually 25%+ is the right ratio, that means ½ cup per pound of potatoes.
Butter would be 2 ounces per pound of potatoes.
Kosher Salt, Pepper (white) and a pinch of nutmeg. Nutmeg will remove the "cellar flavor" of the potato, especially late in the season.
We usually steam our potatoes to get them very tender, starchy and dry, but that is not always possible in the home. Boiling in salted water, just enough to cover and started hot is OK too. The important thing is to cook them to the right stage, tender but not falling apart and draining them well.
They need to be pureed immediately and once the lumps are gone, the boiling milk can be added. I use a Hobart mixer for that and a Kitchen Aid mixer will do for smaller quantities, but so will a wire whisk.
Using heavy cream instead of milk and whipping them will turn them into very fluffy mousseline potatoes. If the potatoes are not cooked enough, they tend to get gummy. If the liquid is added before the potatoes are smooth, they will be lumpy.
The butter and seasonings can be added at any stage. I prefer Kosher salt because it dissolves faster and tastes better. And it has no garbage added. The mashed potatoes will tighten as they sit and become blander. That is the starch that is doing that, so make them a little looser and tastier than you would serve them.
I also like to add some roasted garlic puree, approximately ½ ounce or 1 TB per serving. You can also roast whole garlic the usual way, squeeze and puree that and add it.