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mashed taters

do you boil them whole or do you dice 'em before you mash 'em?

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  1. I use yukon golds and red potatoes and quarter them (or even smaller, but not diced) before boiling. They'll cook a lot faster. I like a "rustic" mash, so I leave the skins on.

    3 Replies
    1. re: KiltedCook

      I ask because there is a fierce debate raging of whether cutting the potatoes before they are boiled effects the final dish.

      1. re: slodki

        If you leave the skins on and boil them whole they will take longer to cook and they will be drier when you go to use them.
        If you peel and/or cut them you they take less time and are absorb more of the water in which they are cooked.
        Some people think that dilutes the end flavor. My personal opinion is that unless you are using potatoes from your own garden (which do have a marvelous taste on their own) it does not make that much difference. Just be sure you use your own judgement on amount of milk/cream you add later and don't follow an exact recipe.
        Where the cut/don't cut thoughts matter, for instance, is when you make potato salad. There you want the potato to be as dry as possible.

        1. re: slodki

          I don't think it affects the flavor as much as the texture -- a drier potato will make a fluffier mash. I do whole unless it's a weeknight, then i'll halve them.

      2. I'd be interested--can't imagine peeling boiling hot potatoes. I quarter them then run them through a ricer. When done, they stay beautifully in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

        1. Peeling hot potatoes is easy - my wife does it all the time for her potato salad. She thinks it's easier than peeling raw. But I usually make the mashed, and I love it with skin on, so for that, I like to quarter them, boil, and mash (with butter, milk, salt). I like to use a mix of mealy and waxy - so it's either yukon gold or red bliss, but mixed with a couple of russetts.

          3 Replies
          1. re: applehome

            ""(with butter, milk, salt)""

            My mashed potatoes has to have more sin and arterial clogging "real cream or half and half" in them. I cringe if I have to use 4% milk and forget 2%, except to drink. Real butter as well.

            1. re: RShea78

              83% butterfat makes up for a lot of sins in that regard. I don't keep cream around except to buy for specific recipes, and all we drink is a bit of 1% milk - fortunately, we always have euro-fat, cultured butter.

              1. re: RShea78

                I remember, as a 13 YO, that I stayed over at a friend's house. He made instant mashed potatoes and I thought it was a sin, as I watched him put a half-stick or more of butter in them. They were great!

            2. I bake 'em, let cool a little and they pop out practically mashed, also good if you decide at the last minute to make twice-baked.

              1. Try them both ways and decide which way you like best. How we like them means nothing to your taste buds! '-)

                1. I peel and quarter them before boiling, and then rice them.

                  1. BTW, infuse the half & half with fresh herbs for a delicious finished product!

                    1. I usually quarter or eighth them but I have lately been microwaving them (whole), and then they can become anything...

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Scargod

                        while we're talking about mashed potatoes, how many do you think I should make for 20 people? and how can I make them without hurting myself?!

                        1. re: melon

                          For this meal, assuming you want leftovers, I'd go with at least a pound of potatoes per person. (Personally, I'd go with a twenty five pound bag, to be safe. You're going to need a big pot!) I know this is going to be controversial, but boil them the night before and refrigerate in their skins when a knife inserted slips out after some hesitation, in other words, barely cooked through. About an hour before serving, take them out of the fridge and pour boiling water over to cover, put the lid on, and let them sit until you can't hold one in your hand more than a few seconds when you retrieve it, i.e. they're hot. Pour off the water, and peel if you like (we don't) then mash, in batches if necessary. Add hot milk or cream and melted butter and salt and pepper to taste, and whip, in batches, if necessary. The amount of cream will depend on the moisture content of the potatoes, but have at least a quart on hand. Really, I'd go with a rustic mash myself, with this amount of potatoes, unless you have an industrial mixer. It's going to be a production, so ask for help if you peel.

                          1. re: melon

                            Today, I would use some high quality potato pearls (dry mix), from a food service outlet. Then look over serving information based on 1/2 cup servings and add more for those you may expect to take 2 to 3 helpings. 20 big eaters I would figure 60 servings.

                            Back in my catering days (15 Years ago) I would likely have pealed roughly 30 pounds of potatoes and oven shallow water steaming them into 2 or 3 roasting pans leaving some elbow room for mashing and mixing them.

                            Catered mashed would be a last resort thing.

                            1. re: melon

                              You're going to get a whole bunch of different answers on this, but I would go with one medium sized russet potato per person. Peel and dice them into about one inch cubes a day or two ahead of time. Put them in a pan covered with water. Add some salt and refrigerate. Take them out of the refrigerator Thanksgiving morning, then put them to boil about an hour before serving. Boil them until they are super tender. Drain, but save some of the potato water. Mash with an old fashioned potato masher, not a mixer. There is such a fine line with an electric beater between good mashed potatoes and potato glue. But then, some people like potato glue, I'm just not one of them. As you mash the potatoes, begin adding butter and "milk." "Milk" meaning you can use whole milk, half and half, whipping cream (damn the cholesterol, full speed ahead), and some of the reserved potato water, or if you like tangy and unusual mashed potatoes, use buttermilk with some chopped fresh chives for really good flavor.

                              If you're open to new ideas, instead of traditional mashed potatoes, you can boil or steam small "new" potatoes such as red skinned or fingerlings cut in half or quarters, then toss them with butter, fresh chopped parsley and salt before serving.
                              In other words, let everyone mash their own potatoes on their plates! The thing I like about this method is that it makes quite an attractive presentation and it offers people a few less calories that butter and creamed traditional mashed potatoes. And the flavor is still "potatoey," but it's undeniably different than mashed. It's also a lot less work for the cook on such a busy day.

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                I'd go with Caroline's suggestion that one, good-sized russet potato, per person, should be enough. I'd add butter first, so it gets completely melted in, and then start adding cream or half and half.
                                The little, red skinned potatoes are a great idea. They melt in your mouth! Only drawback: I think they are a little pricey.

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  ""In other words, let everyone mash their own potatoes on their plates!"

                                  That one "bombed" on my Granny with lack of planning and lack of a single - huge family table. She had gravy, sour cream, Butter, etc., on the food line (full length of her kitchen counter), but not enough to go around to the 3 tables it took to seat everyone.

                                  Twas the Nightmare on Thanksgiving, when everyone developed ants in their pants. Choices gave too many reasons to get up...

                                  She got the idea from her Ladies Club, sometime in the mid-70's. Likely it didn't take into account family size or when the family can pass around food to each other.

                                  1. re: RShea78

                                    I have been a strong believer in a holiday buffet for a lot of years now. Back around 40years ago, when my standard Christmas dinner consisted of standing ribs of beef with Yorkshire pudding AND roast goose with chestnut-Grand Marnier stuffing AND a whole roast sucking pig with an apple in its mouth and red velvet ribbon with holly around its neck, I used to use the food as the centerpiece, then replace it with the flaming plum pudding for the dessert centerpiece. But you know, food centerpieces are only gorgeous BEFORE you start eating. Who needs to sit staring at a bunch of naked ribs?

                                    So now I set up all of the food on a buffet, or this year I've decided since there will only be four of us... my son, his wife, my grandson and me -- we will eat in the breakfast room under the crystal chandelier instead of in the dining room under the brass chandelier... And that means my whole black granite island will be the buffet! Spanakopita, Kalamata olives, free range turkey with giblet gravy, sage and bacon stuffing/dressing, sweet potato walnut souffle, mashed potatoes, lavendered brussel sprouts, just plain steamed corn for my son (who only eats two "vegetables:" corn and Centrum vitamins), fresh baked yeast rolls, cranberry Grand Marnier relish, relish tray, pumpkin cheesecake, Korbel brut, and espresso.

                                    My son will have one skinny slice of white meat with skin removed, one spoon of mashed potatoes without gravy, and one spoonful of plain steamed corn and insist I open a can of Ocean spray just for him. He will probably skip the pumpkin cheesecake simply because it isn't plain old store bought pumpkin pie. (Don't worry. I have a small one in the refrigerator for him, but how did I go wrong? He's my son and eats like this?!?!? I'ts a puzzlement!)

                                    My daughter in law will eat some of everything and as many additional helpings of dressing as she can swallow, even foregoing desert. I have a panful of dressing specially for her to take back to El Paso with her. She doesn't cook.)

                                    My 5 year old grandson will very properly eat a child sized portion of everything with table manners that would put Emily Post to shame. I served hot dogs for his third birthday. He ate his with a knife and fork!

                                    And I will have a little bit of this and a little bit of that on my plate and push it around, dreaming of my REAL Thanksgiving dinner, which comes somewhere between 11:00pm and midnight when, after they are all tucked in, I will have a GLORIOUS turkey sandwich on white bread with lots of Hellmann's and cranberry sauce with a cold glass of milk. Everybody knows the cook cant taste a damned thing after smelling all that food all day!

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      maybe it skips generations (re your son's preferences) or his peers didn't get that kind of spread.

                                      to each their own. in my family I'm the picky eater, but for different reasons.

                                2. re: melon

                                  I am cooking fot 21 on Thanksgiving. Includes teenage boys and girls, children and adults. Some will eat TONS and some, like my mother, will only eat the sweet potatoes . I cook 15 pounds, and have found that works out- with leftovers. I peel and cube them and cook them in my stock pot. They are the last thing to be done- I prepare them as the rolls are cooking and the birds are resting. I drain them, a bit at a time, and mash them in another big pot- with heated cream, butter and S/P. WOrks out every year- just make sure to fill up th epan that held the mashed potatoes as soon as you move the potatoes to the bowl makes clean up a breeze.

                              2. how do you reheat a large portion of mashed potatoes? i go through this every year.....by the time i get to my grandmother's house for Thanksgiving, the potatoes are cold and i end up microwaving them forever. Is there a better way?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jessicam29

                                  I use a double boiler, or a make shift one. (heated water vessel or pot and a metal pan as an insert. 2 things needed is an ample supply of water, and something to elevate the inside pan. metal to metal contact at the bottom of the pan, even with water can scorch potatoes)

                                  Idea 2 is bring them in a large slow cooker or a few as needed.

                                  Idea 3 is a roast pan and oven method. Spread potatoes as a moderate layer, Cover, rehydrate as needed. Best not above 300 degrees.

                                2. and no matter the method please don't drop them in a stand mixer and run them until it's the texture of reconstituted mix - may as well use mix at that point - dry to the point of astringent no matter the amount of dairy or gravy added. flavorless potato puree. lumps are much preferred. too aerated.

                                  ok that almost goes on the weird mom food thread.

                                  we always had something that probably could have worked as papier mache paste.

                                  enlist youngsters to mash by hand if need be or the inevitable poor fool that asks "can I help?

                                  1. I freeze leftover mashed potatoes. To reheat, I defrost, top with butter, and reheat in the oven *uncovered*. The excess water evaporates, they are golden brown on top and absolutely delicious!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Funwithfood

                                      Hey, Swanson has been doing it since 1955! Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn in a TV dinner! '-)


                                    2. You will get the best results (by minimizing water in the spuds) by boiling them whole with the skins on and then peeling. But, I have only done this once. I'ts really not fun to try to peel hot potatoes, so I also cut them up first. One tip is to use heated milk or half and half or cream (whichever you use) and melted butter to mash. It's better than adding the liquid cold and the butter solid. Can also reserve the boiling water in a bowl and then perch the mashed taters over than to keep them warm longer.

                                      1. I peel, then cut my potatoes into big chunks (about 1 1/2") before boiling them. As long as you're good at timing them to just-done, and draining well, they shouldn't be water-logged. I just drain mine by holding the saucepan lid slightly askew.

                                        Then, I use a potato masher to combine them with unholy amounts of butter (about half a stick per big russet potato), a good handful of kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper, still in the saucepan and on the (now turned off, but still hot) burner. No milk, just lots of butter!

                                        1. The potatoes were ready, but I couldn't find my ricer!!! (My potatoes didn't have the same smooth texture, but still tasted good thankfully.) Lesson learned; make sure your necessary tools are at hand...ahead of time!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Funwithfood

                                            <humor>As a "SMALL KID", just the sight of lumpy mashed potatoes, was practically a form of child abuse. Them little black specks, was bug parts! Don't even try to tell this kid, it is pepper! ;-)<end humor>

                                            TODAY, lumpy mashed potatoes is a welcomed treat. A few twists of cracked pepper is even better. :-D

                                            1. re: Funwithfood

                                              Ricer!! I've never used more than the hand masher-with the flat, wiggly wire. In fact, mine's an antique, like me

                                              1. re: Scargod

                                                Scargod, those wire style mashers are a hard to find item. Most have a perforated disk that is more difficult to do the job. I also use mine for breaking up and cooking, ground beef or sausage, in whatever dish I need it for. (Chili, sausage gravy, etc.)

                                            2. This year I used Yukon Golds and boiled them whole with the skins on. When they were tender, I drained them, cut them in half and put them immediately through the ricer one half at a time with the cut side down. The skins stay in the ricer so you never have to peel the potatoes. They were "drier" this way perhaps--they could take a lot of butter, milk, and cream, but the potato flavor was great and the method was very easy.