How to make mashed potatoes edible

31 July 2012

It used to be that I hated potatoes with a burning passion. My parents never made them, so thankfully I was safe at home, but it seemed like every time I went to a friend’s house for dinner there would be piles and piles of this tasteless white froth, and having been raised to be polite at the dinner table (and above all not picky), I would always feel obligated to take a few scoops, as small as I could make them.

That changed very suddenly in my third year of university. I was working in a French restaurant at the time. Normally we ate omelettes, quiches, salads or steak with steamed vegetables on the side for our staff meals. But once, just once, the chef brought out a giant bowl of mashed potatoes. “Ugh,” I said to myself, but since I was starving and the only other thing to eat was steak and I was vegetarian at the time, I reluctantly took a few scoops. It was, of course, delicious.

Since then, armed with the chef’s one piece of sage advice — “Il est impossible d’ajouter trop de beurre” — I’ve probably tried about 30 ways of making mashed potatoes : with milk, without milk, with cream, with different flavourings, with peel, without peel, cooked whole, cooked in bits. I think I have finally picked out the few rules for making mashed potatoes that even a picky potato-hater like me can eat.

1. There really is no such thing as too much butter. One gram of butter per 10 grams of potatos, really, should be the minimum. That’s about 1/4 cup for 4 smallish-medium potatoes. And it has to be butter, not margarine.

2. You can use whatever liquid you like, really. I mean, I guess using heavy cream will make the potatoes taste better if you’re low on butter, but as long as you follow the first rule, it tastes fine even with just plain water, though sometimes I also add in a bit of chicken stock or dashi.

3. A tiny dash of freshly grated nutmeg (really, tiny, less than 1/4 tsp per 4 potatoes if you’re using the freshly grated stuff) adds untold depths of flavour.

4. If you have to eat mashed potatoes while on a diet, please consider reducing the serving size instead of trying to make it low-fat. Mashed potatoes just aren’t supposed to be a low fat food.


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