Mashed Potatoes Made Simple and Easy. Or Fancy! (But still easy!)
Everyone knows I’m a pretty big opponent of pre-made foods. One of the more common ones is the longtime favorite mashed potatoes. Fluffy, savory delight made of cream and tender potatoes… yet most people make it out of a brownish dust that came out of a box, reassured mostly by the fact it features a picture of the state of Idaho on it. Our better judgment try and tell us no, for mashed potatoes are whipped, creamy goodness, and how could they come from a powder? But our laziness and gullibility force us to buy into the potato dust hype, since as we all know Idaho loves potatoes. They love potatoes.
Instant mashed potatoes aren’t the worst thing in the world, and I will submit that they get the job done if you’re cooking en masse and don’t have the time to prepare the real deal. But unless you find yourself preparing a potato feast for 50+ people, you really don’t have much of an excuse, since homemade takes about 30 minutes, most of which time is just the potatoes boiling, and you not actually doing anything.
Mashed potatoes is a very, very basic dish that everyone should know how to make due to its popularity, versatility, and practicality. Also they’re freakin’ delicious, and who the hell wouldn’t wanna make mashed potatoes all the time? Like chocolate chip cookies, they’re the kind of food which can be made with mostly things you’ll have lying around anyway.
That’s all you need to whip ’em up, no pun intended. Also, make sure you have a potato masher, the big metal waffle attached to a handle. Here’s your recipe skeleton for plain ol’ vanilla mashed potatoes (not literally).
Basic Mashed Potatoes
Makes approximately 4-5 cups, and should make about six servings.
1/2 stick of butter
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp baking powder (baking soda works if you don’t have powder)
Salt and pepper
So before you even get started, fill a pot about halfway with water, make sure it’s big enough to fit the potatoes and the water in. Salt the water a bit and place it on the burner. By the time you’re done prepping your potatoes it should be boiling.
First and foremost, you have an incredibly pressing decision to make. Do you want skin-on potatoes, or peeled? This is really just a matter of personal choice, since some people prepare their mash to be perfectly smooth, while others like a little bit of skin or lumps involved. I personally prefer the skin on, since the little bit of nutrition potatoes offer is found in the skin, and by peeling it off you’re basically relegating your mashed potatoes to the nonexistent tier of celery and iceberg lettuce. Either way, peeling them is also more work involved too, so take that into account. After deliberating on that, you have to cut the potatoes up in whatever way you like. You cut them into chunks to save time chopping, or you can make them into slices too if you don’t mind the extra work. When I say extra work too, I mean like an extra minute or so, nothing tremendous. It’s a decision you can make on the fly, since the smaller you cut them, the faster they’ll cook. I go with slices since I’m impatient and like them to be done as quickly as possible. If you’re got time to kill and can afford to cook them slower while other parts of the meal finish up, then hey go for it.
Add your potatoes into the boiling water, cover the lid halfway to allow for steam to escape, and let them cook for 15-25 minutes, depending on how small you cut them. On average, expect them to be done around 20 minutes later. When they’re done, they’re gonna be tender and mushy, as you’d expect. If you’re not sure, take one out and press a fork onto it. If the fork slides in all smush-like, they’re done. Remove them from the heat and drain the water from the pot.
Next comes the mashing part, so expect a little bit of a workout for your arm. Add in the butter, since the potatoes are still hot and will help it melt quickly. Grab your potato masher and begin crushing the potato pieces into, well, mashed potatoes. They’re gonna be lumping and nasty at first, that’s normal. The more you mash them, the smoother it gets. Once it’s pretty smashed up and resembles mashed potatoes more, add in your sour cream and milk to help thin it out a bit.
Again, the more you work on it, the closer it’s gonna get to what you’re expecting it to look like. When it seems like the mixture is fully mashed up, stop using the masher tool, and switch over to a large spoon. Add in your baking powder, and stir it nice and quickly to simulate whipping them. Once you’re satisfied with the fluffiness, add in your salt and pepper to taste, and that’s it. You’re done!
The beauty of mashed potatoes as a dish is how easy it is to make it seem all fancy-like, by adding different flavors. Every ritzy restaurant on the face of this planet uses this fun trick to make their dishes sound more important than they are. Tell me, what’s more impressive, “Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes” or “Roast Chicken with Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes”? Exactly. Know what made the second one “garlic rosemary” mashed potatoes? They threw garlic and rosemary in. So yeah, not rocket science. At the end of whipping your mash, you can add in literally anything you want, and it will take to the potato mixture. Here’s some examples of the cheat codes restaurant use to spiff up their potatoes…
Different Ways to Make Cool/Special/Fancy Mashed Potatoes
- Garlic – Crush three or four cloves of garlic up and stir those in.
- Rosemary – Add in approximately two tbsp of fresh or dried rosemary.
- Sage – Add in approximately 2 tsp of fresh or dried sage.
- Ranch – Either one packet/1 oz. of ranch dressing or dip mix or about 1 tbsp of liquid dressing.
- Lemon – Add in 1 tbsp of lemon juice and a tsp of sugar.
- Buttery – Use a full stick of butter instead of half of one.
- Cheesy – Add 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on top of the potatoes, and place them in a baking dish, then bake for a few minutes til the cheese is melted.
- Walnuts/Almonds – Stir in 1/4 cup of crushed walnuts or almond slices.
- Apple – Add in 1/2 cup of applesauce and 1 tsp of nutmeg.
- Peppered – In addition to your ground pepper, add in 3 tbsp of cracked peppercorns, or 2 tsp of whole peppercorns.
- Bacon – Add in either three slices of cooked bacon chopped up, or 1/4 cup of bacon bits.
- Pesto – Stir in 1/2 cup of pesto.
These are just a few examples. The possibilities go on and on, since you’re limited only by what you actually enjoy the taste of. Hell, you like chocolate? Throw some dark chocolate into there if you want. Restaurants basically follow this formula of “(Meat/Main Course) + (______) ((______)) – (Mashed Potatoes)” and it looks like the coolest thing on earth, when all they really did was throw something in last minute. And many places even have the balls to do so with powdered mashed potatoes. For shame! They put in minimal amount of effort and you paid $20 for your chicken dish. Tsk tsk tsk. Don’t be a chump, now you can make fancy mashed potatoes your own way at home, and it shouldn’t take you more than a half hour to do so. Starch-lovers, rejoice!