Being of Irish descent, I have potatoes in my blood, and nearly every day this month so far, I’ve had them on my plate, as well. Roasted with garlic and rosemary, mashed with cream and chives, orange and sweet and roasted with maple syrup, you name it. Potatoes for me are the ultimate comfort food.
I have strange parameters for what foods I like and don’t like: I love bananas, but I don’t like any kind of artificial banana flavor or banana pudding. I love potatoes, but I don’t like baked potatoes. Ironically, baked potatoes (and roasted potatoes) are technically roasted, and mashed potatoes, if you put them in the oven, are technically baked. Woooo, words. I love cheese and sour cream, but I just can’t get into the whole baked potato thing, and I can’t explain why.
Mashed potatoes are a whole other story: I can’t get enough of them. I remember making craters in my mashed potatoes and filling them with turkey gravy, smothering the mashed potatoes all over roasted chicken, and scraping the mashed potatoes off of shepherd’s pie because I discovered I don’t really like lamb (I’ll make shepherd’s pie with beef instead and call it cowboy’s pie.)
I’ve made mashed potatoes myself plenty of times and I’ve had fun experimenting with extra things to add in, but it took a while for me to learn how to make them perfectly rich, creamy, and fluffy. The answer: cream. And also using a potato ricer (not required but strongly encouraged.) Really whipping up the potatoes so they aren’t coarse or grainy, then filling them up with cream and butter for smoothness, is the best way to make them. If you want, you can top them with cheese and bake the whole thing for a few minutes (in fact, I’ll probably end up doing that on Thursday.)
These mashed potatoes are flavored with caramelized shallots and fresh chives, but you can swap out the fresh chives for any other fresh herb (oregano is a good one), and shallots for roasted garlic cloves or caramelized onions.
caramelized shallot and chive mashed potatoes
serves 6-8 people
a splash of olive oil for cooking the shallots
2 lbs white, red, or gold potatoes
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1.5 c heavy cream
1/2 c fresh chives, chopped coarsely
hefty dash of coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cook the shallots
You can either caramelize the shallots on the stove or roast them in the oven. You won’t be using the oven for anything else in this recipe (unless you want to quickly bake the mashed potatoes after you combine everything), so unless you have a small countertop oven, the stove is the easiest way to cook the shallots.
Heat a medium or small skillet (8″-10″) on the stove on medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil for cooking.
Meanwhile, peel and slice the shallots thinly.
When the oil is hot, add the shallots and cook for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are noticeably bronzed but not burnt. Remove from heat and set the shallots aside on a plate or in a bowl.
Assemble the mashed potatoes
Coarsely peel the potatoes. You can peel them completely or partially, or even not at all, depending on how you like them. It’s easier to rice the potatoes with less skin but not entirely impossible to rice unpeeled potatoes. Cut the largest potatoes in half so they cook more quickly and fit into the ricer, if you’re using it*.
*Ricing isn’t required for mashed potatoes, though it does wonders for the texture. You can also use an electric hand mixer instead to whip up the potatoes. If you do use a ricer, though, with adjustable settings, you can use any but the widest setting. The widest setting will mean coarser potatoes and you may have to whip them with something else after ricing the potatoes.
Add potatoes to a large stockpot (6~8 quarts), and cover with water to an inch above the potatoes. Set the stockpot on the stove and turn the heat to high.
While waiting for the potatoes to cook, microwave the cream and butter together or heat them gently on the stove, just so that the butter is melted and the cream isn’t cold.
Once the water is boiling, start checking the potatoes with a fork every couple of minutes. You should be able to stick the fork all the way through the potato without much trouble. When the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander in the sink.
Use a potato ricer, electric handheld mixer, or potato masher to mash the cooked potatoes in a large bowl. Whisk in the melted butter, warm cream, chopped chives, and caramelized shallots, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. The cream and butter make the mashed potatoes more smooth, and they should be plenty salty.
The mashed potatoes keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for about a week or so, and can be reheated in the microwave. If they start to dry out, reheat them with additional cream or butter.
I always give thanks for good potatoes,