The countdown to Thanksgiving is on, and so is my quest to perfect the ultimate mashed potatoes recipe in time for the five wonderful guests we will welcome into our home. Let’s back up for one minute for a brief history on my mashed potatoes experience.
I love mashed potatoes and was basically raised on them. I have an awesome cook for a mom who loves cooking as much as I do. She bestowed upon me a set of typed up recipes about 5 years ago — one of those gifts you are not truly thankful for until a little later in life. I’ll admit, I have taken my potato mashing skills for granted as I, A) haven’t made them that much and B) just thought I could wing it. With just the two of us and the fact that we have only hosted two holiday meals (for a total of 3 people each time), the opportunity to create a delicious pot of goodness for a crowd has not presented itself often.
When not cooking for a special occasion, I have shrugged off the slightly gummy love lump soup of potatoes I created in the past. But now, things are getting real. And I’ve accpeted that my husband is a Mashed Potatoes Snob.
I started practicing my mashed potatoes masterpiece about three weeks ago when I cooked my brother a “farewell” dinner as he was moving out of our house. I went with the yukon-gold-minimalst-approach in an attempt to simplify and cook healthy. In fact, I created actual concrete blocks disguised as edible yellow chunky things. Pretty sure I ate one bite, my husband ate enough to not offend me, and David of course ate his entire helping because everything I cook is better than nothing.
Round 2: I bought a five-pound bag of good ole’ fashioned russets on Sunday thinking I would just make them one night for dinner this week. Come Monday, I realize Thursday was our annual holiday Thanksgiving potluck. Score! A reason to cook a huge vat of potatoes that I don’t have to feel guilty for wasting.
I was totally torn between two recipes. My mom’s and a version from The Newlywed Cookbook. (Yes, we are that couple who has those types of cookbooks and actually uses them). So I decided to do dueling potatoes and let the office decide.
Here’s a summary:
Pot 1: Boil whole potatoes with skin on, then rub off the skin, put through ricer, combine with cup of warm whole milk, butter and then add creme fraiche. Salt and pepper.
Pot 2: Peel and cube potatoes, simmer for 25 minutes, whip with hand mixer, butter, enough milk not to make them runny, and 2 T of sour cream. Salt and pepper.
Here’s how it went down:
Pot 1: What in the heck is creme fraiche? I’m familiar with it from all the foodie shows I follow, but I never actually cooked with it. Thinking I could buy this pre-made at the store (clearly I am not a thorough researcher), there I was in Publix googling recipes on my phone. Buttermilk and heavy whipping cream? Check. Get home. Rush to put two pots of potatoes on so I can leave for tennis by 7. Get to end and realize creme fraiche needs to sit for 12-16 hours before using. Decide to make it anyways and use beaters to add air in attempt to fake it. Successful use of ricer for the first time. Have potato smeared all over counter tops. Skins laying everywhere like carcases. Don’t have whole milk so used 2% milk heated in microwave. Potatoes were way too soupy. Should have added milk little by little, duh. Try to salvage with fake creme fraiche. Double-Triple Fail. Saving grace: at least there were no lumps?
Pot 2: Don’t have whole milk so added 1/4 C of heavy whipping cream and 1/4 C of 2% milk. This appears to work! Get really excited! Add 2 T of sour cream and it gets even better. So creamy and I’m pleased.
My professional taste-tester weighs in:
Pot 2 wins but he is not happy because there are still lumps. Very creamy and good flavor but.he.just.can’t.get.over.the.dang.lumps. (Side note: sorry, mom as this is your recipe but with a variation on milk. I’m sure I just over or under boiled the potatoes.)
Go to tennis practice with potato bits in my hair and smushed all over my black shirt. Try to think about volleys and swinging up the wall, but can’t shake that mashed potato feeling.
Convince myself I can pull off a batch before work in the morning. All I need is another five pound bag of potatoes (and whole milk!) Run to Publix on way home.
Wake up and get those potatoes boiling before my coffee is even going. I decided on a hybrid of both recipes:
– Boil potatoes with skins on (much more potato flavor was evident in that original version) and used the ricer
– Heat correct type of milk properly over the stove
– Let the “creme fraiche” mix sit overnight but ultimately decide that it’s too runny and go the sour cream route
Everything went well according to plan. Achieved some fluffy goodness and nice potato flavor. But they aren’t creamy….even with the whole milk and sour cream. Maybe it’s boiling them with skins on that’s hurting? Or maybe I need to step it up by using heavy whipping cream instead of milk?
I proudly served both vats of goodness at the potluck (a simple solve of mixing pot 1 and pot 2 from the night before saved the atrocity that was pot 1). But I can’t stop thinking about mashed potatoes. I have literally read all the recipes out there. My husband’s advice? Look up Paula Dean’s recipe. Ugh. No thanks. I mean I did, and it’s just not right.
So the question remains…go with pot four (this morning) and replace milk with heavy cream and hope for the best? Or try to squeeze in one more practice batch this weekend? I’m going to be so potatoed-out by the time next Thursday rolls around. Stay tuned.