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How to Make Great Mashed Potatoes

There are many ways to make terrific mashed potatoes - but it all "boils" down to preferences and choice of spuds

While not technically difficult, making great mashed potatoes takes a little knowledge - more so than skill. There are many ways to make them and each method has its diehard fans. Will it be skin on or off; light and fluffy or with a few lumps to "prove" it a real potato? Do you want to bake or boil them; will you add cream or milk? These are all important questions.

Even more critical, however, is the type of potato you choose and how long you should actually mash it. The less mashing, the better as too much stirring around will break down the starches. That results in what most of us have experienced as shiny, gummy, gooey, glue-like potatoes.

Russets are truly the only choice for mashing. They'are a full starch potato that can stand up to the process. They're labeled as Idaho, or baking, and there are many variations on the Russet name. Avoid all-purpose potatoes such as Yukon Gold. They serve better in casseroles and gratins and tend to go gummy when mashed.

Most people prefer their mashed potatoes without skins. There are few advantages to leaving the skin on, and in many cases it is simply deemed unattractive.

For smaller gatherings, boiling is preferred. When making potatoes for larger groups, bake them. Baking will also produce extra fluffy potatoes, as they do not acquire any of the liquid from boiling.

When cutting potatoes for boiling, it doesn't matter what size, but the chunks should be uniform in size. Smaller pieces can be boiled more quickly (and at a full rolling boil) while larger sections should cook more slowly. When you can pierce the piece with a fork and it goes through smoothly, the potatoes are done. Drain them well and begin adding the creaming ingredients.

Overmashing is the culprit behind gummy Russets. The best way to do this is with a hand ricer or masher. Less is better. Mixers are acceptable, but will definitely subject the potatoes to starch breakdown. Do not use a food processor - that's a guarantee of a pile of glue.

How you choose to cream the potatoes is subject to experimentation. There are options such as butter and milk, buttermilk, cream, and cream cheese.

Another way to dress up mashed potatoes is to add flavoring ingredients. These are as simple as salt and pepper. But consider these: goat cheese, parmesan, roasted or sautéed onions or jalapenos, mushrooms, garlic, sausage, and bacon.

Now, all you need is a quick gravy and the mashed potatoes are ready to serve!



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