Excerpted from Raghavan Iyer’s Smashed, Mashed, Boiled, and Baked—and Fried, Too!.
The secret to perfect mashed potatoes lies in the right floury potato (the russet), a potato ricer, and, of course, indulgent fats like cream and butter. Single-handedly the most comforting of foods (no wonder it was touted as an effective cure for hangovers), this cloud-soft fluff is the perfect bed for any and all kinds of herbs, spices, sauces, meats, and even vegetables.
Ultimate Mashed Potatoes
- 2 pounds russet potatoes
- ½ cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter
- 1½ teaspoons coarse sea or kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh chives
- Peel the potatoes and give them a good rinse under cold running water. Cut them into quarters, place them in a medium-size pan, and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and gently boil the potatoes until they fall apart quite easily when pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes.
- While the potatoes cook, pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the cream cheese, butter, salt, and peppercorns. Simmer over medium heat, uncovered, whisking occasionally, until the cream bubbles, the cheese softens and becomes smooth, and the butter melts, 5 to 8 minutes. Keep the cream warm over very low heat until the potatoes are done.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander and give it a gentle shake to remove excess water. Return the potatoes to the pan. Dry them out over low heat until the surface appears dry, stirring occasionally so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan, about 1 minute.
- Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the potatoes to a ricer and press them through into a serving bowl. (If you don’t have a ricer, use a potato masher and fluff them very thoroughly with a fork when completely mashed.) Pour the pepper-speckled cream over the potatoes and sprinkle with the chives. Fold together with a spatula just until the liquid is incorporated. Don’t overmix it.
- Serve hot. A guaranteed crowd pleaser!
MASHED POTATOES AROUND THE WORLD
The cloud-soft texture of mashed russets is the perfect bed for a world of flavors. You may want to try any or all of these combinations.
▲ Swirl 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary and 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves into the just-heated cream.
▲ Add ½ cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves just before you fold the liquid into the potatoes.
▲ As you boil the potatoes, add 3 or 4 large cloves of garlic and a small onion, coarsely chopped. Rice them all together for an earthy base.
▲ Toast 3 or 4 dried red chiles (such as chile de árbol; stems discarded and seeds left intact) and a tablespoon of coriander seeds in a tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Once the chiles blacken slightly and the coriander seeds are reddish brown, 2 to 3 minutes, transfer them, oil and all, to a mortar and pound the mix to an intoxicating but simple blend. Fold this into the cream as it simmers instead of the peppercorns.
▲ Toast a jalapeño or two over an open flame, holding them with tongs and turning them around to blister the skin on all sides. Discard the stems and add the chiles to the potatoes as they boil. Do not discard the seeds from the jalapeños; mashed potatoes are an excellent medium for modulating the heat of the capsaicin in the chiles. Rice the potatoes and chiles together for a pleasant green color and some smoky heat.