punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Mashed Potatoes

There's a pagan saying, "Preserve the Mysteries by constantly revealing them." In that light, I'd like to share with you a mystery from my life when Thanksgiving comes around.

I have no idea why everyone says my mashed potatoes are the best. Because here's the recipe:

6-8 large Russet baking potatoes
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk (sparingly)
1-2 tsp of salt

Like $5 worth of ingredients that could easily serve 5-6 people. I don't do anything special, either.

Star water a-boilin'. Peel potatoes. Cut potatoes in even shapes so that they all cook at the same rate. I prefer thick disk-slices, but have done wedges fine. Just make sure they are small enough to cook to the center of your slice before the outside turns to mush.

Boil for 10 minutes. Check on potatoes. Sometimes, depending on the potatoes you have, the altitude you are cooking at, and the phase of the moon, cooking times vary. I have never had to wait LESS than 10 minutes, but the average seems to be about 15-18 minutes. If they are cooked evenly through, take them out and drain. If not, keep going back every few minutes until they are. You don't want them too soft, or you will lose a great deal of solid as it turns to wallpaper paste. You don't want them under-done because then they will be lumpy and you'll have weird stings in your beaters. Once drained, put in large mixing bowl and start blending at a *very* slow speed on a classic Kitchenaid or any other heavy-duty solid-state mixer. Sure, you would use a hand beater or even just a potato masher, but that's messy. You start slow because otherwise, pieces will fling out of the bowl all over the kitchen where your dog will eat them, and fart all evening.

Once the chunks are small and sort of mashed together, increase the speed. Cut up the 1/2 stick of butter and drop the pieces in as it blends. Let it mix until non-lumpy. Add milk slooowly. The consistency you want is... well, honestly, whatever you like. I like 1/2 cup of milk (roughly), but if your potatoes are watery, you may want to add less or you'll end up with it looking like cream of wheat. Maybe you like that. Personally, I'd like them stiff enough for a spoon to stay upright in it. Maybe you want potato soup. (Weirdo...) But remember that it does thicken a little as it cools, so if you made them slightly too watery, you should be fine after it has sat in a serving bowl for a few minutes.

Then add salt to taste. Remember, you can always add salt, but never take it back if you add too much. Stop blending, and serve hot. Serve with sour cream, garlic bread, and even cream cheese if you like.

Now, is that really so hard? No. Yet every Thanksgiving, people beg for them. Even those who are skilled chefs, who make the stuffing from bread they made and dried themselves and has so many ingredients, it reads like a shopping list for a family of 10. I used to think it was they just didn't want to peel potatoes, but they even volunteer to peel potatoes if I make a fuss that it's really easy to make without me.

I mean, I'll take the credit, but that's like taking credit for being the best at screwing in a replacement light bulb into a floor lamp. I have been told it's because most of my friends have been raised on "instant potatoes" or something. Dunno.

My mother was an amateur gourmet chef, and so when she did Thanksgiving (and was sober), it was like an advanced chemistry lab with food. I never even know "cranberry sauce" came in a jelly-like form slid from a can, because my mother got fresh cranberries, and boiled them in... something. Cranberries always looked like someone made a dessert topping from them. I never heard of "green bean casserole" (my mother never made a casserole of anything, she considered that a little too... basic?) or even "candied yams" because my mother wasn't a big fan of desserts. I recall her food had all kinds of weird elements I wish I could remember. Sadly, I was a fussy eater and never ate stuffing, cranberries, or anything but dark meat and mashed potatoes. I bet now, as an adult, I'd love her food. She was an artist in the kitchen. I was a picky eater who didn't eat anything "strange" until about age 15, when my best friend Kate smacked that out of me. But by the time I was that age, our family had just fallen apart, and I spent every Thanksgiving away from home to avoid fighting with my dad. Yet, a lot of my mother's constant teaching (which I was never quizzed on, she'd just keep repeating herself over and over) still stuck around, I guess.
Tags: potatoes
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