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Fat Guy

Potato Puree, Mashed Potatoes, Pommes

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My way: peel pots, cut into pieces 2 X 2 inches, place in cold, salted (don’t forget salt) water. Bring to boil, lower heat to med high, and cook with lid 3/4 on for 15 –20 mins. Pierce with sharp knife around 15 mins. If it goes through without pressure, they are done.  Drain. Use food mill (medium holes) to mash. Add generous amounts of butter (I’d suggest 1 tablespoon per person, milk (same), more salt (usually necessary) and pepper. Some say you should stick to white pepper because it keeps the all white appearance. I disagree. Black pepper is a flavor more to my liking and I don’t mind black specks [reminds me of real vanilla in ice cream). Use wooden spoon to blend. Add more butter, salt, pepper, cream, milk as necessary. You have to keep tasting, but if you trust your judgment (go for more salt if necessary) you’ll do OK.

Now that I’ve elaborated on the above, my questions are:

1. Has anyone tested the steam in their jackets variety, something I think Nigel Slater recommends? Instead of boiling as in above, you steam, and when done, remove skins with oven gloves. I did this once., and then went to food mills as I did above. I couldn’t detect any real improvement on way described earlier and unpeeling pots wearing oven gloves is cumbersome.

2. What is result if you mash in food processor? I agree with Stephen Schmidt (in “Master Recipes”, great book by the way), that the result will be waxy and unpleasantly gooey.

3. Has anyone achieved great results using potato masher? I’ve failed to though I was brought up on mashed pots that were made using this instrument (wooden thing with rough edges or steel end on wooden handle). Never eliminated the lumps.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Can't see any way you could improve your boiling and pureeing technique. Food mill or even better ricer are the best tools for the job. Probably no reason to start in cold water. Just throwing into boiling should work and gives better timing control. You might want to "undercook" a little by the standard you've set. Your description sounds a bit over. Also don't see why need to put lid on at all.

Steam in jacket is bs.

Cuisinart will totally ruin activates too much starch. KitchenAid will work if very careful. Masher isn't effective at all. Better to use a fork than a masher if you want the crushed look.

But here's my question: You're treating cream like it's optional? It's totally the key to great mashed/pureed potatoes. The whole idea is to force as much cream and butter as humanly possible into each empty space between the potato molecules. Milk has too much liquid not enough fat. It is equivalent to adding cream and water. I promise use only cream and you will be very happy.

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Chris

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I always steam the potatoes after peeling.  This allows me to use a potato with a higher starch content than boiling would.

For me, it is important that potatoes have some small lumps left.  I don't like the texture when they have been riced.  So I use and old-fashioned masher.

I am definitely of the heavy cream school.  Butter is optional.  Black pepper is mandatory.

-----

Pat

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Quote: from Pat Goldberg on 8:06 am on July 28, 2001

Butter is optional.

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Unless one is making a well in the mashed potatoes and filling said well with home made giblet gravy, butter is NOT optional.

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Holly Moore

http://www.HollyEats.Com

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I would add that when you use that non-optional butter the best results come if you use cultured butter (like the Keller's or Plugra brand, or any of the French imports).

-----

Steven A. Shaw

www.fat-guy.com

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I'll agree that using lots of cream and butter is yummy, but let's get real, you can't do that all the time.  Save that version for Thanksgiving, and try this version.  BTW, this is the way I made it when Fat-Guy and wife were over for dinner a month or so ago, and I think they liked it.  If they were just being polite, I don't think Steven would have gone for thirds!  

This is more of smashed potato, rather than a smooth puree (use a food mill or potato ricer for that kind).  Anyway, I think I used Yukon Golds, scrubbed but unpeeled, cut into about 1 inch chunks.  Put into cold water with a several peeled garlic cloves and quite a bit of salt (water should taste a little salty, but not like seawater).

I've always heard that you shouldn't overcook the potatoes, that they'd become water logged.  (Un?)Fortunately, I got distracted and totally forgot about these, I think they cooked for almost an hour!  However, I drained them and put them back in the pot, over heat to cook off a little of the water (when it starts to stick to the bottom you're done with that step).

Remove from heat, mash with hand held potato masher (the wavy wire kind, not the spring loaded kind), add a couple Tbs butter, then adding milk as needed. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and fresh ground black pepper, and one more raw garlic clove, minced through a garlic press - I recommend the GoodGrips brand).

These were excellent, very pleasantly garlicy and even though the skins were on came out not too lumpy because of the "overcooking."

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Rachel: Hmm. You know, I think that's the way it happened, but purely for the purposes of scientific accuracy you should probably make them again for me -- maybe a few times.

Michelle: The difference between cultured and regular butter is that regular butter is made from fresh cream and cultured butter is made from cream that has been allowed to, well, culture. That is to say, it is left out and becomes sort of like sour cream. Then they make the butter out of that. The result is that the butter has a bit of a, well, again, cultured taste. That combined with higher butterfat content (by only a couple of percent, but it makes a big difference; this is also known as a lower moisture content) is why the butter in Europe generally tastes a heck of a lot better than the butter here. In terms of what it does to the potatoes, it adds an extra dimension. Remember, butter and cream are the same substance. So adding butter and cream to something is somewhat redundant flavorwise. Not totally redundant -- the process of making cream into butter, even regular butter, changes the flavor somewhat and each provides different textures too -- but still somewhat. You certainly have a ton of leeway in terms of the ratio before you'll notice. But with cultured butter the butter is contributing additional flavors that you can't get from the cream. Kind of a sour creamy, yogurty taste, but not as sour or strong.

-----

Steven A. Shaw

www.fat-guy.com

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I peel red potatoes, steam them in a basket, then when they're tender, mash with a perforated disk hand masher, adding whole milk, salt, white pepper, and fresh nutmeg. Then, a quick reheat in the microwave, heap them on a plate, make a divot in the top and fill it with butter.

No question, these are everyday potatoes, not fine dining restaurant style, but we can eat unlimited quantities (unlike the heavy-cream-and-butter type), and nobody has ever complained. Leftovers are great pan-fried the next day for breakfast, too.

I get disappointed in a restaurant sometimes when the potatoes are so rich that they fill me up and I can't finish them, let alone order dessert afterwards.

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PastryChef “Probably no reason to start in cold water”.

Funny this. Just the way I was brought up.

“You're treating cream like it's optional? It's totally the key”.

Again, just what I’ve been used to. Same thing goes for keeping lid on 3/4 of the way. That’s what my granny and mother did.

Michelle Ng

On cultured butter: “Does it have anything to do with liking opera?”

Reminds me of the joke about how you distinguish emotional rats from unemotional ones. Sit them down and show them the movie “Sound of Music”. Those that cry at the end are the emotional ones. (OK not that funny.)

Adding peeled garlic cloves to cooking water as Rachel mentioned sounds interesting.  And I agree with Katherine. Left over mashed pots are good fried up the next day. And if you’ve got some cabbage, add that too to make bubble and squeak. See link for elaborate version.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/db/7/B/b...ueak_4503.shtml


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I like it when you add stock.

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Quote: from RPerlow on 10:56 am on July 28, 2001

I'll agree that using lots of cream and butter is yummy, but let's get real, you can't do that all the time.  Save that version for Thanksgiving, and try this version.  BTW, this is the way I made it when Fat-Guy and wife were over for dinner a month or so ago, and I think they liked it.  If they were just being polite, I don't think Steven would have gone for thirds!  

This is more of smashed potato, rather than a smooth puree (use a food mill or potato ricer for that kind).  Anyway, I think I used Yukon Golds, scrubbed but unpeeled, cut into about 1 inch chunks.  Put into cold water with a several peeled garlic cloves and quite a bit of salt (water should taste a little salty, but not like seawater).

I've always heard that you shouldn't overcook the potatoes, that they'd become water logged.  (Un?)Fortunately, I got distracted and totally forgot about these, I think they cooked for almost an hour!  However, I drained them and put them back in the pot, over heat to cook off a little of the water (when it starts to stick to the bottom you're done with that step).

Remove from heat, mash with hand held potato masher (the wavy wire kind, not the spring loaded kind), add a couple Tbs butter, then adding milk as needed. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and fresh ground black pepper, and one more raw garlic clove, minced through a garlic press - I recommend the GoodGrips brand).

These were excellent, very pleasantly garlicy and even though the skins were on came out not too lumpy because of the "overcooking."

(Edited by RPerlow at 10:58 am on July 28, 2001)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

-----

Jason Perlow -- Director eGullet.com Community

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Hey, the question was how to make the best. There are plenty of things you can make with potatoes that you can enjoy, serve to guests, even have them ask for thirds. Potatoes are resilient. You can cook them for an hour and make perfectly tasty mashed potatoes anyway. Then there is the next level: Is this something I'd pay good money for and be happy with if it was served to me at a restaurant. For that there is no shortcut, no substitution, no addition that can save you if you don't use butter and cream in sufficient quantity. Butter and cream have calories and fat it's true but they also are satisfying in smaller portions. I oppose health substitutions. I tell people if they don't want to use cream in their cooking then cook dishes that don't call for cream. Don't leave it out of dishes that need it to be their best.

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Chris

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YIn one of Michel Richard's books, he describes something he calls Ali Bab mashed potatoes.  He claims this is what's served in his restaurants.  The formula is EQUAL PARTS butter and potatoes, by weight.  I've never had the heart to try it.  I wouldn't think this is something you'd serve in a big mound with crater gravy.

(Edited by Bilmo x at 10:07 pm on Aug. 5, 2001)

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Yvonne,

my only quibble would be to not add the salt until after the water has come to the boil. Salt lowers the boiling point of water and you therefore might risk the potatos breaking up on the outside and not cooking through on the inside. This holds true for all veg cooking by the way, especially green veg, where you want to cook quickly at a high temperature.

Also, I always return the drain potatos to the stove to dry out a little before mashing. if you follow M Robuchon, cold butter is beaten in first, followed by warm cream.    

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The Food Store

www.alynes.freeserve.co.uk

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My Irish husband suggests using only enough water to cover the potatoes. Also key is after draining, to place spuds back in the pot and dry them out. And I love a generous grating of aged Asiago, something very un-Irish but delicious.

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Liza

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Yvonne-You'd have to add an awful lot of salt to water to significantly raise the boiling point (more than a few degrees). Salt is not all that soluble, especially in cold water. Sugar is, which is why it can boil it dry, and you can add enough sugar to a liquid to prevent freezing.

Pastry chef-I guess we're comparing different dishes here. This is a subjective thing. I happen to like potatoes. You think of them as a vehicle for emulsification of butter and cream. Possibly this is because it is the way this dish is served in expensive restaurants, but I just like what I like, the traditional preparation rather than the new "restaurant-style" one, and must therefore consider that type the best (for me, anyway). In the restaurant where I work we put heavy cream, butter, roasted garlic, and truffles in the mashed potatoes. Eh... whatever they want to pay for is ok by me.

I live a life of moderation, which makes occasional forays into the wild side more enjoyable. When I want butter and cream, I eat butter and cream. When you come over, I'll remember to make you Iron Chef style mashed potatoes.

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Please everybody I will decide this. Deliver a large plateful of your mashed potatoes to my home tonight, each of you, and I will compare and judge. See you later.

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Jon Marcus

jonathan-marcus@excite.com

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Yvonne, thats really interesting about the water temperature thing. I think I heard it on the TV somewhere, tried it out and noticed that if you add some salt to hot water just below boiling point, it appears to immeadiately start boiling, which I thought indicated that the salt allows the water to come to a boil at a lower temperature. In fact it appears to heat the water up and boil at a higher temperature, which will cook the potatos more quickly. What the article you linked to doesn't tell us is what the difference is to adding salt to cold water. Will it reach the higher temperature more quickly and therefore have the adverse effect that I pointed out of not cooking the inside of the potato through and the outside breaking up? Perhaps i should try a little experiment of my own.  

(Edited by Andy Lynes at 3:25 pm on Aug. 1, 2001)

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Andy Lynes

www.alynes.freeserve.co.uk

eGullet.com Community Coordinator UK

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i *always* cook with cold water.  the simple reason you ask?  because hot water sits in that nasty tank in your closet or basement for hours or days before it comes out of your faucet and into your pot.  cold water is much cleaner in general.

also, my understanding is that if you start with cold water and add salt, it will take longer to reach boiling.  this is because the salt doesn't slow down or speed up the heating process (only a change of heat would do that), but merely raises the boiling point, which the water will take longer to reach.  

of course, for those who live at high altitudes, you're not cooking with very hot water!

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Quote: from Andy Lynes x on 10:56 pm on Aug. 5, 2001

Yvonne, thats really interesting about the water temperature thing. I think I heard it on the TV somewhere, tried it out and noticed that if you add some salt to hot water just below boiling point, it appears to immeadiately start boiling, which I thought indicated that the salt allows the water to come to a boil at a lower temperature. In fact it appears to heat the water up and boil at a higher temperature, which will cook the potatos more quickly. -----

Andy Lynes

www.alynes.freeserve.co.uk

eGullet.com Community Coordinator UK

Andy:

The "instant" boiling you see is mostly from the heat of mixing of the salt (crystals or flakes) in water -- doesn't do much to the temperature, just roils things up.  There's an equation in one of my long-forgotten chemistry books about how much salt raises the boiling temp how much. Main point (within reason) is taste, not speed of cooking.  Salt is highly soluble in most any temp of water  -- unlike sugar, whose solubility is much more temp dependent.

Love this board/site!

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Perhaps it comes down to what each cook is comfortable with in their own kitchen. I've now got into the habit of adding salt after water comes to the boil, and am happy with the results of doing that. As you say, taste os paramount, and it's a real drag if I forget to add the salt at all, you just don't get the same result if you season after the veg is cooked for some reason.  

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I am not specifically wondering about recipes. I know how to make mashers, but I rarely make them as part of a labor-intensive meal because the only way I know to prepare them is right before service. Of course, this is impossible if you are also sauteing your veggies, reducing a pan sauce, checking your steaks on the grill etc. (Unless you are A. Bourdain)

I guess what I am asking is there anyway to hold mashed potatoes once they are made for like 20 minutes without losing quality? Or, is it impossible to make them anyway other than right before service?

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They are tricky to re-heat too. The simple thing I do, if I do need to hold them for a while, is to whip in a bit of butter or cream (or oil, of course, if it'solive oil mash) to cheer them up before serving.

The advantage of fries in such situations is that they lend themselves so perfectly to getting their second dip in the oil just before being plated.

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