A LESSON IN MASHED POTATOES
MY VERY BEST MASHED POTATOESThese incredibly smooth and flavorful mashed potatoes are still my favorite. Wolfgang Puck taught me to throw peeled garlic cloves into the water when cooking potatoes; when the cloves are pureed with the potatoes, a subtle garlic flavor permeates beautifully. You can substitute sour cream for the crème fraiche if you prefer, but like the delectable richness and slightly tart flavor that comes from using the crème fraiche.
- 4 large baking potatoes, peeled and left whole
- 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
- 1/2 cup Half & Half
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- Salt & Freshly Ground White Pepper
- Boil the whole peeled potatoes with the garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large pot of water until soft when pierced with a knife, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes (do not discard the garlic cloves…leave them with the potatoes!) and place the potatoes and garlic cloves in a ricer (or, place them in a large mixing bowl and get ready to use some elbow grease).
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepot, combine the half & half, cream fraiche and herbs. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat. Add the butter to the potatoes and allow it to melt. Then add the hot milk mixture to the potatoes. Mash or mix the potatoes until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper and serve or keep warm. (You can use an electric mixer on low speed but please do not use your food processor; they will get gummy!).
CHOOSING THE POTATO
When it comes to choosing a potato, starchy Russets or traditional baking potatoes will give you the best fluffy texture. Lana’s favorite is still the Yukon Gold, for its buttery flavor and yellow color and they work equally well for mashing too.
It is most important that your dairy is warm before adding it to your mash and, equally important, add the butter first. The amount of water in the milk or half-and-half combines with the starch molecules, which makes the potatoes gluey. When you add the butter first, it coats the starch and results in silkier potatoes. And, use really good quality unsalted butter for the best flavor.
THE COOKING PROCESS
I like to start the potatoes in cold water, so that they come up to temperature with the water and cook evenly; Lana prefers to put the potatoes into boiling water. And I cook the potatoes whole, as I feel that they don’t absorb as much water and retain their flavor better that way; Lana cuts them into pieces.
THE BEST TEXTURE
A Food Mill or Ricer is best for creating the ultimate texture. A potato masher and some serious elbow grease works too, as does a stand mixer on low speed (some great cooks will disagree!). But please, do not use your food processor, as the potatoes are guaranteed to over mix and get gummy.
SOME CHEF’S TIPS…
~ You can make your potatoes in advance of serving. If it's just an hour or so, leave them in a glass mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water to keep warm. If your mashed potatoes have been refrigerated, the best way to reheat them is to place them in a low oven, covered, for about 20 (you made need to add a bit more warm milk or cream to better the texture).
~ If you’re looking for a shortcut to mashed Potatoes, roast baby ruby red potatoes (with their skins on) at 400°F until tender, then smash them with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. Stir in a dollop of crème fraiche, a bit of milk or cream and a handful of chopped herbs, for a rustic side dish, without all the fuss of perfect mashed potatoes!