Mashed Potatoes Tricks & Tips

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Apparently it’s permissible to experiment with side dishes at the holiday meal, but my family has given me very clear instructions that I can’t mess with the basics, so here is my “recipe” for the Lepp family’s favorite mashed potatoes.  

I prefer a firm potato like a Yukon Gold (or any yellow potato), as I find Russets fall apart while cooking and make for a watery finished product. Any waxy potato like a red also works well. To determine quantity,  I count on one good-sized potato per person, about softball sized. (This might be your first hint that we LOVE our mashed potatoes, and I count on generous servings per person) I prefer to peel mine, but if you’re using red potatoes and you like a rustic look, go ahead and leave some of the peel on to add some color. Cut the potatoes into large chunks. Now it’s time to add some of my secret ingredients!

Parsnips add a subtle sweetness no one can identify, and are a delicious way to use this underrated local root vegetable.  Peel like a carrot, cut into large chunks and if the inside stem on the wide end seems woody, dig it out and discard it. One parsnip for every two potatoes is a good ratio.  

Garlic – I peel a whole head of garlic and toss the cloves right into the pot with the potatoes.  The cooking time mellows the sharpness, and you just mash it up with everything else.  

I was also told by a trusted cook that a peeled and cubed celery root, about baseball sized, adds another layer of mild celery flavour to a pot of mashed potatoes.  

Ingredients

Yukon gold potatoes (or “yellow” potatoes)
(1 “softball size” potato per person)

parsnips (1 parsnip for every potato)

1 head of garlic

1/2 cup of butter
(may need to adjust more or less depending on how many potatoes you use)

1 cup whole milk
(read instructions carefully – you may need more milk, according to your desired texture)

Method

Cover everything with cold water and add about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, let simmer until fork tender, drain and let sit uncovered for a few minutes to steam off any extra moisture.

For ease in mashing, I set my pot in the sink. Butter is added next to the hot potatoes to ensure that it all melts, about ½ cup. Once that’s mixed in and potatoes are lightly mashed, I add hot milk, and for the best and richest flavour I always use Agassiz’s Farm House Whole Milk. My mother taught me that you must heat the milk first and I’ve never questioned that. In doing some research I discovered that it probably doesn’t make much difference, but I detest cold food and so this helps keep the temperature up. I start with one cup, and then add more in ¼ cup increments if necessary to create the texture we like, which is smooth and creamy. Keep in mind that the potatoes will firm up a little bit if you’re not serving them immediately. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your preference.

I never use a food processor or electric mixer, as they make the potatoes gummy. The best masher I’ve found is Kitchen Innovation’s “Perfect Masher”, as it’s well made, will last a lifetime, and the sharp blades do a great job of mashing. We carry them here at the market, as is the case with many of my favourite kitchen tools.