Mashed Potatoes have been my happy place for years, they were the first dish ever that I learned how to competently make, and they were also the first to ever be doctored. In short, they're one of the few foodstuffs that has kept me entertained for years, which has also been widely accepted throughout my family ;)
A few warnings before I get into all the fun:
- If you are lactose intolerant, or are afraid of gluten or fat or good food, then get ready to improvise.
- Everything that is about to follow is not a real recipe, it is a set of guidelines. Just mentally prepare to relax and not stress about measuring the exact potato to milk ratio.
- Finally, the ingredients that go into my mashed 'taters usually consist of whatever I have in the house that seems to be applicable, so if you don't have the goods, or you've got different goods, improvise.
My Normal Range of Ingredients:
Milk or Broth
Yogurt or Sour cream
Cheese, preferably cheddar
Green onions or chives
Crispy bacon pieces
Salt & Pepper
The first few items -- potatoes, garlic, milk, and butter -- are the only items that I would say really, really need to be included to produce a tasty pot of mashed potatoes, but the addition of any of the other ingredients would really improve the flavour, especially salt and pepper. A good rule of thumb is to just consider what you enjoy eating with baked potatoes, and throw that into the pot.
So, cooking the potatoes. Before you do anything, you need to first decide whether or not you want skin in your mashed potatoes. Most people just up and peel, which I do most of the time, but there is a case to be made for leaving the skin on, because it can change the way you experience everything (there's a penis joke in there). The potato skin contains a lot of nutrients, which will make you feel less guilty for enjoying all the fat that will come later. Texture is another thing that is incorporated when the skin is left on, which I view as a pretty good bonus, because I love texture in my food.
This time around I opted to leave the skin on my potatoes, largely because we grew them this year, and I hate wasting anything that came out of our garden. If you decided to peel your potatoes, now's your chance to get it done. You also want to add your garlic cloves to the pot, so that they can cook with the potatoes, allowing the flavours to blend.
Here's a basic rundown of the cooking process: I chop my potatoes roughly into half inch pieces, throw them into a pot, cover the chunks with one inch of water, bring that water to a boil, and allow it all to simmer for twenty minutes. At the end of that time, I stab the potato chunks with a fork to see if they're done; they should break apart easily. Drain, and return the potatoes to the pot.
Now, this is the fun part, if you like cooking, that is. Throw an excessive amount of butter into the pot (at least one tablespoon more than what you think is appropriate), pour a bit of milk or broth, and mash it all together. Keep in mind that if you mash too much, or try to blend it, you will bring out the starches in the potatoes and turn everything to glue. That is an abominable waste to me, as I frickin' love lumpy potatoes, but if you insist on eating glue, then so be it. If you're trying to avoid starchy potatoes, mash your mush well, but don't over-do it.
Any-who, back to reality; once the potatoes, garlic, butter, and milk are all well combined, take five minutes to plan and prep all of the additional goodies you want to add. Try to combine everything in as few steps as you possibly can, again in an effort to avoid having to swallow your potatoes twice with each bite.
For my potatoes I actually omitted the butter this time, primarily because I planned on freeze drying the final product, and the addition of fat in freeze dried goods really shortens the amount of time you can safely store the food. I fully intend to add a healthy amount of butter, pork fat, and milk to my potatoes when they're reconstituted. What I did add goes as follows: green onions, fresh from the garden; cheddar cheese, fresh from the fridge; a dash of cream; a dash of crushed peppercorns; and a healthy dose of salt to make it all good.
A quick note on pork fat: quite often my mum will purchase large amounts of cheap pork from the grocery store, which she then turns into carnitas for the rest of the year. The fat from all that pork is always rendered and refrigerated, and I think that it adds an amazing background flavour when added to potatoes. If your family isn't as passionate about fried pig meat, you could use bacon fat as a substitute.
Once you're satisfied that you have flavourful and diverse potatoes, and that you've added enough salt (seriously, you need salt to bring out the flavours, and it always feels like more than you think you need), go ahead and enjoy every single bite. I recommend these potatoes eaten as a dish with fried chicken breasts, gravy, and a pile of peas. If you don't feel like working that hard, or you are looking for a quick delicious breakfast, I've always eaten leftover mashed potatoes as a first-thing in-the-morning-meal. Regardless, it'll all taste good.
For those of you who are also freeze dryer fanatics, this section's for you.
So, I made an absolutely massive pot of mashed potatoes. I thought that I would have satisfying amounts of leftovers. As a result, I let my sister enjoy some of the fresh 'taters, and I just barely managed to fill all of the trays.
Regarding the settings:
Shelf limit - 125
Freeze time - 9
Dry time - 9
The whole process took about three days, and I got roughly five pints of potatoes bagged and jarred. I haven't yet had an opportunity to play around with the best way to rehydrate, but I've got some ideas that I'm itching to put into practise.
Thanks for tuning in,