In my senior year of college, my friends and I were scattered about various off-campus rental houses in the neighborhoods surrounding the university. We used to gather for big, casual pot-luck dinners; lots of pasta, huge bags of snack food liberated from the school cafeterias, and boxes of wine. Today, it makes me shudder to think of drinking white zinfandel, let alone zinfandel in a box, but my memories of those dinners are always happy: lots of food, friends, music, movies and belly laughs.
In addition to pasta dishes so spicy that no one could eat them, I was famous, justifiably so, for my mashed potato creations. They were a one-pot meal, including garlic, herbs, vegetables, sausage or bacon, whatever I could find at the local markets, and of course, potatoes. Many years later, while I make a more simplified version of this dish, I always smile at the memory.
In my experience, one thing is crucial to the success of from-scratch mashed potatoes: the waffle masher. I’ve used many a potato masher in my time, at various friends’ houses, rental houses, and the like. I never seem to make good mashed potatoes without a waffle masher. They are either a sticky, gummy mess from over mashing the potatoes, or a thin, textureless and flavorless whip from using a blender, food processor or hand mixer. Please, if you don’t have one, invest in a waffle masher. Your potatoes will thank you.
- 2 lbs potatoes (Yukon Gold are my favorite mashing potato), peeled (or unpeeled, if skin is fresh and soft) and coarsely chopped
- about 4 oz (1 stick) butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 – 12 cloves garlic, minced
- about ¼ cup whole milk, heavy cream or buttermilk
- ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (I use oregano, thyme and parsley here)
- salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring a large stockpot about two-thirds full of salted water to a boil.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add the minced garlic and cook over lowest heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic softens and becomes very fragrant, about 10 – 15 minutes. Watch garlic carefully to ensure it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and stir in fresh herbs. Set aside.
- Boil the potatoes until fork-tender, drain, and return to the hot pan. Add the garlic-herb mixture, a splash of milk, a chunk of butter and some salt and pepper. Mash, adding additional butter and milk as needed: the potatoes should be creamy and flavorful but the final texture is totally up to you (I prefer mine with some lumps intact). Serve hot, with additional butter, snipped fresh herbs, and a grind or two of fresh black pepper.
Serves 4 to 6 as a side.
- If you accidentally add too much milk, you can dry the potatoes a bit by adding grated Parmesan or another hard grating cheese.
- Roasted garlic makes for a nice change: I usually double the amount as the flavor is more subtle. Add roasted garlic flesh directly to the mash.
- If you find yourself in desperate waffle-masher-less straits, a fork is the next best thing.
Refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Summer through winter.