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Old 12-17-2011, 09:28 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Constance View Post
You guys are so smart. I really appreciate your prompt advice, and I will use my old fashioned potato masher and not the electric mixer.

Lately, rather than peeling, cubing and boiling the potatoes the way I used to do, I've been baking the whole potatoes, rubbing the peeling off, and then mashing. The (@$%&#) arthritis has hit my shoulders, elbows and hands, and this method is less painful. (Actually, Kim does the mashing.)

Have any of you ever done it that way, and do you have any hints?
Constance, before, but I think it is a great answer to peeling potatoes.

I've hand-mashed potatoes and used a mixer on low after mashing to finish them if I want them very creamy. I used to use Russets, but now use Yukon Gold, if I can find them. Next spring, I want to grow my own potatoes. I'm unsure which would be the best to try to grow, but I think it will be a fun venture.


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Old 12-17-2011, 09:50 PM   #32
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Okay. Time to get scientific and down to the sure-fire, rather than hit or miss, way to get good mashed potatoes. Not the "whipped" stuff, but a dish that still has its potato character.

Russets are fine. But a potato is just a package of cells full of starch. For mashed potatoes, we want to gel that starch into tiny cell sized units and - only then - break them up to a puree. If you don't break them up, you get lumps of cells and lumpy mashed potatoes. But, if you break the cells apart immediately, you release all that starch and heat it up, and it does what hot starch does best, makes paste. What you want to avoid is getting free starch molecules floating around, because they clump together. That's what the "glue" is. If you don't break the cells, the starch gels inside the cell structure, which is okay.

Now, one way to make potato starch glue is to cook potato until it's soft and use a food processor or blender. That breaks up the cells to release free floating starch into the watch.

But, now here's the science part. Once starch molecules are heated and gel, no matter whether they are inside the cell walls or floating around in the water as individual cells when you heat them, if you cool them down, they're stable. They're fixed at something like the original cell size. The starch molecules can't separate. And the big payoff is that they stay that way, EVEN IF YOU HEAT THEM AGAIN. And no matter how many times you heat them again.

So what we have after heating it just hot enough to gel the starch but not hot enough to break down the bonds between cells is a bunch of cells filled with nice, stable fluffy starch gel packets. Because we haven't heated it enough to break the cells loose, it's all still more or less intact slices or chunks of potato. Profoundly changed, but still visually potato slices. And if we now heat them again, hotter than before, we can break down the cell binder and gently mash to create the potato puree we want.

The particulars:

Slice or dice to 1/2-inch. The pieces have to heat pretty evenly throughout, so you get the effect you want acting on all cells.

Heat to 130-degrees F and hold for 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. The starch is now gelled and fixed within the cells. I stick a thermometer probe into a slice to monitor temperature. I usually cut one slice a bit thicker so it can take the probe. I'm going to hold it all for 30 minutes, so they'll all pretty much be the same temperature throughout.

Reheat to 190 of just under boiling and hold for 30 minutes. That breaks the binder between the cells that gave form to the potato. I don't use a thermometer here, because just the barest simmer works okay without bouncing the potato around too much.

Drain and puree. A ricer or food mill is best for keeping the stable starch units intact. But if you want to mash, that's fine. They'll even take a modest amount of electric beating in this state, but be gentle as possible. They're much more stable than if cooked in the usual way. And they will remain stable, even when chilled and reheated. That's one of the great things. You can now make mashed potatoes ahead, and they will travel well.

Add butter according to what it takes to act well upon the particular variety of potato you use - and milk, also according to how dry that potato is. But don't turn them into a bad potato soup. You won't have to whip them, and the mash will be firm enough to bread, or coat, or form into patties and fry or whatever else you want to do in the very wide range of dishes.

This is a more elaborate procedure than the hit or miss usual, but it will always work, because starch will always behave the same way through particular temperature sequences and will stabilize, and the cell binders will always break down at a particular temperature and not before.

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Old 12-17-2011, 09:59 PM   #33
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GLC, you do that for mashed potatoes every time? For me that's way to much work and way to fussy. I'd never eat mashed potatoes if I had to use that process.
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Old 12-17-2011, 10:14 PM   #34
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I really don't make mashed potatoes very often. But I was fascinated to learn the reliable method that preserves the dish as POTATO, rather than mysterious whipped substance that is only assumed to be mashed potatoes because folks can't think of what else it might be. But it's really not much work. It's mostly just cooking time, and the thermometer alarm will tell me if the temperature is off.

But, no. It's probably not something that's going to happen when someone is pressed for time. When pressed, we make all sorts of compromises. But it's good, sometimes, to make it what it's supposed to be, just so we remember. I think the last time I made mash was months ago when I made boeuf bourguignon for guests, and after the prolonged and fussy BB process, righteous mashed potatoes doesn't seem like much additional effort.

Plus, I already know how to do mashed potatoes, and I know it will work every time, so I'm not real motivated, and there are a lot of other new things to try with potatoes, and most of them are more fun.
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Old 12-17-2011, 10:42 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Constance View Post
I don't mean to be a big baby, but it just hurts my arms to peel potatoes. It really aggravates me...I used to be so strong, but now I can't even pick up a milk jug without using both hands.
Originally Posted by Adillo303 View Post
Constance, I am very sorry for your arthritis. It hurts to loose mobility that you have always had before.

I use russets and hand mash. I often leave the skins on as I like the taste. I usually add butter, milk a bit of garlic powder and some basil.

If I have time ans I want then really nice, I rice them. This guarantees no lumps and very fluffy. In fact, you can server them just riced and not mixed and add whatever you want at the table.
I'm with AC. I just leave the skins on. I like the skins and I think the skins add to the taste although some may not like the aesthetic appearance of the bits of skin.

I chunk my potatoes then boil them (without peeling), and then (important) strain them and return them to the pan and let all the moisture steam off. Separately I roast some garlic heads (cut off the tops then wrap in aluminum foil and roast about an hour at 350, squeeze out the roasted cloves). Then I add the garlic to the potatoes, and some butter, then mash them with a hand masher or spoon, then add some cream and keep mashing, season to taste.

I don't use any electric mixer or anything other than a hand masher or spoon. I like the uneven lumpy texture, goes with the uneven bits of skin. YMMV

If you don't like peeling potatoes then maybe you might try just skipping that step.

Originally Posted by GLC View Post
Okay. Time to get scientific and down to the sure-fire, rather than hit or miss, way to get good mashed potatoes. Not the "whipped" stuff, but a dish that still has its potato character...
Great post! I have nothing to add.
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Old 12-18-2011, 09:17 AM   #36
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I find russet potatoes dry, which is why I like to use them in bread baking. I boil them, peel (after boiling) and mash , let dry out a bit before adding to the flour mixture.
When I toast a slice of potato bread, butter it....I swear it tastes like french fries!
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Old 12-18-2011, 12:41 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Katie H View Post
Always use russets for mashed potatoes. Never found them to be gluey. After I cook them, I drain them and then put them back into the pot to dry out well. Never had a gluey problem and they always turned out nice and fluffy.
I agree, Katie. because they're a bit "drier" they lap up the milk and butter, or whatever liquid you mix with them, and really become silky and sexy.
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Old 12-19-2011, 02:07 PM   #38
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I have an unusual way of making smashed spuds that works quite well. First, I choose 1 large yukon gold, or russet per person. I then microwave them until they are cooked through. I let them cool so that I can pick them up without burning myself. Cut them in half and poke with the tines of a fork until they are a virtual sponge. I then add butter, and while it melts on top, I poke it into the potato meat until all is absorbed.

You would think that since the butter is a little overflowing, you would be done. That thought is wrong. now, make a small depression in the center of the exposed potato half and add about two tbs. of whole, or canned milk and lightly stir the potato, inside the skin. Lightly season with salt, and stir it again. Now you ahve a very potato flavored mashed potato in the skin.

This also works with conventional baked potatoes, or spuds baked on the grill.

The result is a creamy smooth mashed potato, but with a hearty skin that begs to be eaten seperately, with a thin layer of potato still attached. Also, you can tailor these mashed potatoes to the tastes of the people eating them. Add garlic to one, , maybe a bit of gravy, au jus, or browned butter on the next one, a little ranch dressing to another, straight butter to yet another, maybe some bacon bits to Dad's (Dad's always deserve bacon bits), etc. And, once you show them how, each person can opt to make mashed potatoes in the skin at their own setting if they so choose, or eat them as baked potatoes. You don't have to do them all, simply provide the technique and ingredients (baked potatoes and fixings). And kids get a kick out of it. People liek our beloved Constance don't have to peel spuds either. All's good.

The inspiration comes from my childhood, at my Grandmother's house, where she would let me mash my boiled potato on my plate, with butter and milk. Such things didn't fly at my parent's house. We were not allowed to "play" with out food. Now, I hardly make a meal where I don't somehow "play" with my food.

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