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Ultimate Mashed Potatoes

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Recipe adapted from Southern Lady Magazine.  [Recipe makes 8 to 10 servings].

Mashed potatoes must have been one of the first posts on this blog, but due to some major housekeeping a few years ago, the post was temporarily removed with the intention of being updated and re-posted.  Until recently, I totally forgot that this site was still running without the recipe.  But fear not, it's back now and better than ever — just in time for Thanksgiving!

We've all had mashed potatoes that were little more than bland boiled potatoes mixed with just enough butter and milk to make the dish recognizable.  And then we've also had mashed potatoes that were so spot-on in the texture and flavor departments that we could have eaten them as our main course rather than a side.  So what's the secret to a great side of mashed potatoes?  Using proper amounts of butter, cream, salt, and bold flavors is key, but equally important is having a solid culinary knowledge about potatoes.

Since everyone has different opinions as to what steps one should take in making the perfect mashed potatoes, I'll start by saying that I've made many variations of the dish, all with different levels of success (or failure, depending on how you look at it).  Some were amazing, while some were almost inedible.  After quite a bit of reading, along with a couple hundred pounds of potatoes (seriously), I firmly believe that the following list should get you a solid end product:

  1. Contrary to what many recipes state, there is no 'one correct' potato to use; there is some science to keep in mind, but the degree of success that you have also has to do with your personal preferences.  Red potatoes are a low-starch variety that don't provide too much flavor, but do give you a velvety texture and nice look if you keep the skins.  Yukon gold potatoes are a medium-starch variety that have a buttery flavor rather than an earthy taste, and give the mashed potatoes a rich hue.  Russets are a high-starch variety that have great flavor, but can become gluey if overworked (due to the starch).  Play around with one or two types and narrow down what you prefer best through trial and error.
  2. Add your melted butter before you add the half-and-half.  Starch molecules love to absorb water, so if you add the cream (largely water) first, the starch molecules will balloon up and explode, causing your mash to be gluey.  If you add the butter first, the starch molecules will be coated in a protective layer of fat that makes it hard for water to pass through.
  3. Make sure that your cubed potatoes are as close in size as possible.  There's nothing worse than having a mix of small, watered-down over-cooked potatoes alongside some large, crunchy under-cooked potatoes.
  4. Be gentle when mixing your potatoes.  The more they're worked, the more starch pockets will explode, resulting in gummy potatoes.  The best thing for mashed potatoes is a ricer, spatula, and elbow grease; the worst thing is a KitchenAid on high speed or the use of a food processor.
  5. Start with cold water when boiling your potatoes for a more even cooking process.  If you begin with hot water, the outsides of the potatoes will cook right away while the centers will still be raw.
And as for the second secret...understand that mashed potatoes are not meant to be healthy.  Large amounts of butter as well as some form of cream (sour cream, heavy cream, half-and-half, etc.) are key.  Once you have incorporated the essentials, have some fun by playing with one or two new bold flavors.  I used truffle oil in mine and loved it, but other great options include blue cheese, caramelized onions, horseradish, pesto, or bacon bits.  Lastly, season to taste at the end with an appropriate amount of kosher salt.  If you're ever at the point where you have big flavors incorporated into your mashed potatoes, but they don't give you the reaction you hoped for, add a bit more salt; it does wonders.


2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons roasted garlic purée
1/4 cup white truffle oil
1/4 cup fresh chives, finely minced

1 to 1 1/2 cups half-and-half, warmed


Fill a large pot with 4 quarts (16 cups) of cold water, all of the potatoes, and 1 tablespoon salt.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the potatoes are fully cooked.  Drain the potatoes and let them air dry for several minutes.  [Side note:  This drying process will help absorb more of the half-and-half, oil, etc. as well as get rid of some of the water that causes starch molecules to explode].

Pass the potatoes through a ricer or food mill (saving the skins if desired) and into a large mixing bowl.  [Side note:  If you prefer larger chunks in your mashed potatoes, using a potato masher is totally acceptable too].  Stir in the butter, followed by the sour cream, salt, black pepper, Parmesan, garlic, truffle oil, and chives.  Gradually add the warmed half-and-half until you reach your desired consistency.  Season to taste, and top with additional chives and truffle oil.

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  1. Definitely in time for Thanksgiving! I just emailed this to Chad—thanks!