If, in some apocalyptic scenario, we all had to pick one food to eat for the rest of our lives, I would undoubtedly pick the potato. With a simple but hardy flavor, potatoes are like nature's jack-of-all-trades. Baked, fried, boiled, grilled - I have yet to meet a potato recipe I didn't like. But there is one preparation that stands out above the rest: mashed potatoes.
As the ultimate comfort food, mashed potatoes are hearty and delicious. And while they won't top the list of the most nutritious foods, they are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber and potassium. Mashed potatoes can stand up to a variety of flavors, from horseradish to wasabi to Parmesan. There's even a recipe for mashed potatoes with pears. But my favorite mashed potato enhancers are sour cream and whole lot of garlic.
For my perfect mashed potatoes I use russet potatoes. I love the earthy flavor and fluffy texture, and though I know some think this is gross, I leave the skins on. If you prefer a waxier potato, Yukon golds make an equally delicious, more buttery option. I base my potatoes off of this recipe. The sour cream adds a dose of creaminess that somehow also makes the potatoes feel lighter with the hint of tang. I am a garlic fiend, so though the recipe only calls for one teaspoon, I typically add about a clove per potato. Just don't kiss anyone afterward. If you don't like bits of garlic floating around, grate the garlic into a paste or use garlic powder if you must.
Most recipes call for whole milk or cream, and while they are perfectly right in doing so, if I am making mashed potatoes for just a regular dinner as opposed to a special occasion, I use skim. Only a small amount of richness is missed, but you won't have to buy new pants after dinner. Another option, which can replace both the milk and sour cream, is buttermilk (see this recipe). Though buttermilk often gets a bad rap due to its name, it actually is typically low in fat and a good source of protein, calcium, riboflavin and potassium. It is also easier to digest and lower in cholesterol than milk and provides a nice tang similar to sour cream.
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The most important stage in making mashed potatoes is the mashing. Given the choice, I prefer an old-fashioned hand masher. However, since I despise single-use utensils, I mash my potatoes with the beaters on an electric hand mixer and then give it a few turns with the mixer on for a whipped potatoes that still have some delicious lumps. Other mashing options include a ricer or food mill, which will produce a very smooth, puree consistency. Whatever you use, make sure it's not a food processor and that you don't over-mix, unless, of course, you like a gooey, gluten-y mess.