Every good main dish has a side dish that really accentuates it. You can have the best main dish, but if you have soupy vegetables or less than stellar accompaniments alongside it, it just feels like a disappointment.
To be honest, I didn’t used to be very good at creating delicious sides. Even the topic of this post, the beloved mashed potatoes, were not as good as they could have been. Then, I met this man and decided to marry him. He just happened to be a chef at a high end hotel restaurant in Seattle.
A dream right? Marry a chef and he’ll cook all these delicious meals so you never have to. Well, I won’t lie and say I don’t appreciate the time he does spend in the kitchen. Even though he is no longer a chef, that training has still come in handy many a time.
Mashed potatoes is one of those times. He took my ordinary mashed potatoes and helped me make them so much better. The best thing? It didn’t take much. No fancy ingredients or special preparation necessary.
Now, I will say that I don’t make them exactly the way he does. Working in a commercial kitchen for so many years has him used to doing things in a much different way than us ordinary kitchen folks.
By different, I mean he likes to boil the potatoes, transfer them to another bowl, heat up the cream and then add it to the bowl with the potatoes. I’m not saying that doesn’t work to make wonderful potatoes, but do we need to dirty that extra bowl? If you ask him the answer is an automatic yes. But again, for us ordinary cooks, the answer is no.
So how did I take ordinary mashed potatoes and make them into creamy, delicious potatoes? Cream and salt. Yes, that’s right, just cream and salt.
You might be wondering, why didn’t she put cream in her ordinary mashed potatoes. The answer is I usually used milk, not cream, because that is often what I had on hand. It didn’t occur to me that the higher fat content of cream was a much better choice.
Growing up we didn’t put anything in mashed potatoes. We would take boiled potatoes that had been cut into bite sized pieces, put them on our places, and take a fork to mash them down. Basically, we made a flattened baked potato and topped it with whatever else we were eating as part of the meal.
Despite my mashed potato beginning, I grew up to make ones that were at least an improvement on the flattened baked potato.
Today, I’ve been educated by a real chef and now I’m going to spread that to all of you.
To make mashed potatoes the first step is washing and peeling the potatoes. Easy right? Well, yes as long as you aren’t using little potatoes. I had some smaller potatoes to use up and those little buggers are slippery! I almost dropped them so many times trying to take the peel off.
If you’re smart, you’ll use medium or large sized potatoes that you can actually get a grip on. Or if you do use some small potatoes, take heed and plan on potentially chasing them as they escape through the kitchen. (Am I the only one picturing a 3 stooges scenario right now?)
After I’m done peeling I like to rinse the potatoes off again to get all the little bits of peel that inevitably stick to the potato. Once rinsed, cut them into bite sized pieces (this is the one thing that’s remained consistent from my childhood flattened potato days).
Cutting them into bite sized pieces is not necessary, you can cook them whole, or in halves, it doesn’t really matter. The reason I like to cut them smaller is because they cook a lot faster if they’re in smaller pieces. I never leave myself enough time to wait for a whole potato to fully cook in boiling water. Bite sized pieces can be done in about 10 minutes, and that’s perfect for me.
Here’s a tip I did not realize before my chef education. Add a touch of salt to the water, bring it to a boil, and then add the potatoes. I always added the potatoes to the water and then brought it to a boil. Why does this matter? Well, it turns out that the starches the potatoes release during cooking don’t make the water overflow the pot if you add them to water that’s already at a boil.
I’d tried the wooden spoon trick without success, but it turns out my husband was on to something with this. Try it if you have the same problems I used to have.
The potatoes are in the boiling water, how do you know when they’re done? Use a fork and try to pierce the potato. If you can’t easily slide the fork into the potato chunks they aren’t done. But if the fork slides into them easily, they’re ready to go.
Strain the potatoes into the sink and place the pot back on the burner. This is where we differ in our mashed potato approach. I put the cream and butter directly into the pot to warm up, and then add the potatoes back to the pot. No other dirty dishes needed.
To mash the potatoes, I like to use a hand mixer. I like a little chunk to my mashed potatoes and this does that perfectly. You can easily use a hand masher, or even an immersion blender if you want perfectly smooth potatoes.
Mash those potatoes up, incorporating the butter and cream and watch those potatoes turn creamy. Add the salt, mix it thoroughly and you have yourself one delicious side of mashed potatoes.
If you wanted to get a little more fancy, you can add other ingredients to jazz them up. Garlic, chives, and cheese are all great choices. If you have other additions you like in your potatoes, leave a comment below and share! I’m always looking for more variety.
Top them with whatever goes well with the meal you’re having, or don’t top them at all. They really are delicious without anything extra.
- 5-6 medium potatoes
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 c heavy cream
- 1 tsp salt
- Wash and peel the potatoes, rinsing again once they are peeled
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, adding a pinch of salt to the water
- Add the potatoes to the boiling water
- Cook until a fork easily slides through the potatoes
- Drain the potatoes and set aside
- Place the pot back on the burner, add the cream and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter has melted
- Add the potatoes back to the pot and mash, ensuring to incorporate all of the cream and butter into the potatoes
- Add salt, mix thoroughly, and enjoy!