Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tried and True - Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are so easy and inexpensive to make, I really just don't understand why so many people use instant potatoes or the kind of pre-made "real" potatoes that you can find in the refrigerator case at the grocer's. Maybe it is because people don't know how quick and easy they are to make? Maybe they lost their potato masher? Or peeler?   Maybe they think peeling potatoes is hard?

If you assume that a pound of potatoes costs a dollar (and potato prices can vary widely) and take into account the cost of butter and milk,  then a half cup serving of homemade mashed potatoes costs only 20 cents. That is a really good deal. The brand of "fresh" mashed potatoes at my local grocery store cost about 60 cents a half cup serving. That is a difference of $3.20 for every 4 cups of mashed potatoes. Call me old fashioned but I don't mind peeling and mashing a few potatoes to save over three dollars a meal.   That adds up.

I did not purchase the "fresh" packaged potatoes and conduct a taste test. I am pretty sure that homemade mashed potatoes made with fresh organic Featherstone Farm Yukon Gold potatoes would beat any commercial "fresh" potatoes when it comes to taste. Plus you can control what goes in them.

I also calculated the calories for this recipe. (Note - there are 110 calories in a 5.3 ounce potato, which is considered to be medium sized.) There are 77 calories in each half cup serving of mashed potatoes, assuming you use half a cup of 2% milk and 2 T butter for two pounds of potatoes.   The refrigerated store mashed potatoes I checked out had 120 calories per half cup serving. That is another reason to make your own.

Top with some homemade yogurt or creme fraiche.  Good breakfast.
This recipe makes twelve 1/2 cup servings. At only 77 calories for half a cup, you could eat a whole cup and still feel virtuous. You would also be getting your day's supply of vitamin C. You can reheat any leftovers or add some milk and turn them into soup. Or you can mix a cup or so of leftover potatoes with a beaten egg and a some minced onion. Form into little patties, fry in butter and you have potato pancakes!

For lots of mashed potato recipes, see this link from the Idaho Potato Commission.

You will need a cooking pot - at least two quart size. Plus a peeler, a potato masher and a colander. And a jar if you like to save the cooking water for bread or soup like I do.  There are lots of kinds of potato mashers.  If you are not happy with the one you have, get another one.  I recommend metal.  The plastic ones I have seen are just not serious and would not stand up to the muscle power that goes into potato mashing.

This is what two pounds of peeled Yukon Golds look like
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into equal sized chunks (I used Yukon Gold potatoes - they make great mashed potatoes. So do russet potatoes.)
2 T. butter melted in 1/2 cup warm milk, 1/2 t. salt or to taste. Same with pepper.

Here are the potoates, cooked and drained
Cover peeled potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until potatoes are very tender. Drain potatoes. (Save the cooking water for soup stock or making yeast bread. Waste not want not.) Return potatoes to pan and stir and heat gently a few minutes so they are dry. Mash with potato masher. Add butter and milk and mash some more. Don’t over mash or potatoes will get gluey. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy. If potatoes are too dry, mix in a little more warm milk to get the consistency you like.
Mashing potatoes is fun.  Takes muscle power.

Note on peeling: Some people leave the peels on their mashed potatoes. This is a matter of personal choice. If you have potatoes with very tender peels it probably is ok. Some peels can be bitter or tough and are best removed before cooking.

Note on the colander: If you are experienced and confident you can do what I do and just use the pot lid to hold the potatoes back while you pour off the cooking water.  Faster and saves having to wash a colander.

Note on herbs and garlic: If you have some roasted garlic around by all means add some to your mashed potatoes. You can also add caramelized onions. Or a handful of chopped chives or parsley or both.

Note on other flavorings: Add some grated cheese. Or chopped cooked mushrooms. Or cooked cabbage (the Irish call this colcannon). Or grated horseradish.

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