Mashed Potatoes

If I was stuck on a desert island with just one food for the rest of my life, I’d choose potatoes. And if I could only make one dish with them, they’d be mashed.

Super simple. Super buttery1. Goes with everything — even, probably, the sand I’d start eating because I’d inevitably get sick of potatoes at some point, even though they are the most delicious and amazing ingredient in the world.

Ok, so the desert island thing is an exaggeration, but only slightly. I went to Ireland on my honeymoon and I set a goal of eating some sort of potato at every meal. I made it like 4 days.

So bottom line: I like potatoes, probably more than you do. Who better to trust to tell you how to make mashed potatoes, then?

First  — and this is like the hardest part, which is how you know these are easy — peel your potatoes. For a long time, I was super particular about this. I made sure I got every nub and skin flake and bruise off the potato, even if it meant whittling the tot down to something a fraction of the starting size. (And even if it took me several hours…) Recently, and I don’t know why, it just occurred to me: who cares? The end result is still going to be a nice scoop of mashed on my plate, probably smothered in some sort of gravy and eaten in the same forkfull as the veggies and chicken or steak or pork or salmon or whatever’s on my plate2. Just make sure the skin is mostly gone and you’re fine. No need to stand over the garbage until your back hurts3.

Second, cut your potatoes into pieces like an inch long. It doesn’t actually matter, though you want them small enough that they’ll boil quicker. You also want them relatively consistent, as it’ll affect the consistency of the mash down the line4

Third, boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes. When you stick a for in them, you’ll know they’re done when you don’t get any resistance (I guess that’s like anything else you’d stick a fork in…).

Once they’re done, drain ‘em in a colander and return them to the pot. Now’s where you get to play a bit: add about half a stick of butter and a quarter cup of milk and start mashing. That should be good for a couple pounds of potatoes. Add milk incrementally until you get the texture right, more butter for flavor. You can also use sour cream instead of milk, but I’ve found this to be a stronger taste and I don’t think they’re as good the second and third times around. Add salt and maybe some garlic powder and onion powder? Depending on what you’re serving them with, you can figure out how much seasoning you’ll need. Generally, I just want the potatoes to be a buttery addition to whatever else I’m having, so the seasoning on a steak or chicken breast is enough that I don’t need much flavoring in the potatoes.

It’s hard to screw up mashed potatoes, but I’m sure it’s possible. My biggest mistake is not paying attention to how much I’m making, so I get the butter and milk wrong. Good rule of thumb when making mashed potatoes: more butter than less. You definitely don’t want to end up with not enough.

  1. I’m assuming we have condiments on this island. I’m not eating raw potatoes for eternity…
  2. Did I mention potatoes are versatile, too!? You can eat them with anything!
  3. V important: don’t peel potatoes over the sink. Garbage disposal or not, you’re looking at a hefty bill from the plumber. Not that I know from experience.
  4. I learned this the hard way: I used to not pay any attention to this until my wife brought it up once. When you finally get to the mashing part, bigger pieces don’t get crushed the same way smaller pieces do, so you wind up with more chunks than you planned. Now, if you like chunky mashed potatoes, awesome. But if your wife doesn’t like chunky mashed potatoes, not awesome. Make sure the pieces are consistent and you’ll have a consistent dish.

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