Thursday, January 20, 2011


As a shameless carb-lover, mashed potatoes trump all other food groups, even perfectly aged and prepared steak from Peter Luger. When I've had the pleasure to dine at this storied steakhouse, I've been known to hungrily eye the side dishes during the ceremonial presentation of prized meat.

Luger’s mashed potatoes have nothing on Jeanne’s. Mom created potatoes with the perfect airy texture including a few lumps to keep things real. Unlike many others, hers also had flavor, thanks to chicken stock. A few minutes of baking added a lovely crust atop these snowy breasts of starch. But I drone on...

When they didn’t think I was listening, my parents would trade tales about building volcanoes out of mashed potatoes and gravy as kids. (Sixteen years apart, my parents came from different generations, yet this stands out in my memory as one of their shared childhood experiences). I never mastered such volcanoes because we didn’t do gravy; empty mounds of potatoes-cum-volcanoes are lame and toothless. Nevertheless, mashed potatoes were my go-to request for birthdays and special occasions.

Of course, Mom left no recipe for something so mundane. She learned her craft from my Irish grandmother, Gert, who often pawned the task off on one of the six offspring. As my Uncle Paul remembers, Gert always said that he made the BEST mashed potatoes, ensuring that he would happily volunteer for potato duty. “I was 35 years old when I realized that I didn’t actually make the best potatoes,” marvels Paul. “I was just a sucker!” Well played, Gert, well played.

With potatoes coursing through my veins, I too make a decent mash. Not only did I observe Mom’s techniques firsthand, but I also inherited the family’s most precious tool: Gert’s potato masher (pictured on left). Fret not. A large fork will do the trick. Here’s what I got:


Serve 4 to 6

These measurements are guesstimates. I urge you to play around with them until you hit the texture you like best. The key is to add the liquids in as you are whipping, allowing air to fluff up your taters.

· 6 regular sized, Idaho baking potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes

· 3 Tbsp of butter (adjust based on Fear of Fat)

· 1/4 cup of chicken stock

· 1/8 cup of milk or half and half (again adjust according to personal fat anxieties)

· Salt and pepper


Boil potatoes until soft and drain

Immediately add ½ amount of butter and smash up with large fork or potato masher

Using either a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid with beater attachment, begin whipping potatoes

As you are whipping, gradually add chicken stock and milk

Keep whipping, scraping down the sides to push back stray lumps, for up to 10 minutes. Until you are satisfied.

Place in baking dish, top with additional butter, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes

Add salt and pepper.

Serve immediately.

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