The most memorable mashed potatoes manage to be both fluffy and buttery at once. Too much butter and they’re heavy; not enough and they’ll seem wimpy. Here’s where choosing the right spud for the job really matters. The texture of a potato after cooking depends on its structure and moisture content. Some varieties, such as Idaho bakers, have low moisture and cook up to be light and airy. Beaten with butter and cream, they make a fluffy mash. High-moisture potatoes, such as red potatoes or new potatoes, can turn “gluey” when beaten. But because they have such a distinctly earthy, nutty flavor, I like to add just one or two to the pot.
Use a mix of baking and boiling potatoes. I like to use Idaho bakers, big russets, and Yukon gold. Always mash potatoes by hand with a potato masher or big spoon. Do not whip or put into a Cuisinart, as this results in a gluey, dense mash.
3 pounds potatoes (2 pounds bakers, 1 pound mix of red bliss and Yukon gold), about 6 to 8 medium spuds
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Peel the potatoes, cut into quarters, and put into a large pot. Add the salt and enough water to cover the potatoes by about two inches. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 to 25 minutes.
Tip the pot to drain off all but about a ½ cup of water. Return to the heat and mash the potatoes, then add the milk and cream, adding more cream if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and finish with a few pats of butter.
Reprinted with permission from In Winter's Kitchen, © 2015 by Ann Dooley. Published by Milkweed Editions.
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