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The Method: Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Rich, buttery, flavorful mashed potatoes should not be a mystery or a crapshoot. Yet who hasn't been disappointed with a bland blob on their plate? Here are the simple steps to no-fail mashed potatoes, every time.

Use half gold and half russet potatoes for the best results.

Chop 5lbs of potatoes into roughly even-sized chunks. For the healthiest mash, don't peel; if you prefer to peel, check out this use for the skins.

Cover with plenty of cold water in a large pan and add 1T salt.

Bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.

While the potatoes are boiling, warm 5T butter, 1 cup of milk (cream doesn't add more flavor, and it can get gloopy), and 4 oz of cream cheese (for tang!), cut into small pieces, in a saucepan. Do not bring to the boil, just warm enough to soften the cream cheese and butter (mix gently with a fork or whisk).

Drain, then return the potatoes to the still-hot pan.

Put the pan back onto low heat and give it a good jiggling over the heat for about a minute or so, to really dry off the potatoes (that water is not bringing any flavor).

Mash the dried potatoes with a fork or potato masher, then add in half the pan of butter, milk, and cream cheese. Fold in the liquid, but do not over mix. When that has been absorbed, add in the second half and barely mix. Taste and season with more salt, lots of cracked black pepper, and an extra pat of butter.

Options: add 1-3 cloves of garlic to the pan of boiling potatoes; add mustard when mashing; add butternut squash; add cooked, chopped bacon; add chives or scallions.