30 minutes. Serves 4
6 baking potatoes
1/2 to ¾ cup hot milk, evaporated milk, half-and-half or whipping cream
1/4 cup butter, softened
1. Cook potatoes by either boiling or steaming: To boil, in heavy saucepan with tight-fitting lid, cook the potatoes in about 1 inch boiling, salted water until fork-tender. If whole, cook 30 to 40 minutes; if cut up, 20 to 25 minutes. If lid doesn't fit tightly, the water may boil away. Check occasionally and add more water if necessary.
To steam, place a wire rack on the bottom of a kettle or large saucepan and add water to just below the level of the rack. Bring the water to a boil, add the potatoes and cook, tightly covered, until fork-tender. If whole, cook 30 to 45 minutes; if cut up, 20 to 30 minutes. If the lid is not tight-fitting, check occasionally to see if water should be added.
2. Peel the potatoes (this can also be done before cooking). If using a potato masher or ricer to mash potatoes. If using a potato masher, press the tool into the potatoes in a downward motion, forcing the potatoes through the cutting grid. Using a ricer, place the boiled potatoes in the perforated cylinder, then squeeze the long handles together to force contents through ricer holes. Let rice-like pieces mound in a serving dish.
3. Beating with a mixer or wooden spoon, gradually add the heated milk, evaporated milk, half-and-half or whipping cream, according to taste. The potatoes will be creamier and thinner if more liquid is used. Finish with softened butter to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Serve immediately or spoon into a buttered casserole and smooth a light film of cream over top. Keep warm in an oven heated to 250 degrees. Cover with a towel to absorb steam.
EACH SERVING: 250 calories; 216 mg sodium; 33 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.73 gram fiber.
Traditional mashed potatoes: Peel baking potatoes (figure 2 pounds for every 4 to 6 servings), leaving them whole (whole potatoes absorb less water than cut and will give the finished dish a lighter texture). Boil until fork-tender, then drain. Mash while hot using a masher or ricer; a ricer will finely mash the potatoes for the fluffiest of textures. Gently beat in warm cream, milk or evaporated milk (1/2 to 1 cup for every 2 to 3 pounds of potatoes) to give the potatoes the desired consistency. Stir in butter (1/4 to 1/2 cup for every 2 to 3 pounds) for added richness, and season as desired.
Creamy mashed potatoes: For denser mashed potatoes, boil Yukon Gold, red or other boiling potatoes. Mash the potatoes, leaving the skins on for a more rustic look and using a fork or potato masher for a coarser texture. Thin as desired with cream, milk or a combination; cream will give a denser texture to the finished dish and more richness. Then add butter to taste, and season.
Brown butter mashed potatoes with fried sage: To add rich, nutty notes to the dish, brown the butter before adding. Fold in yogurt (or sour cream) to lend a subtle tang, and top with fresh or fried herbs.
Double-mashed potatoes (patatas revolconas): Adapted from "My Kitchen in Spain" by Janet Mendel. Mash the potatoes after boiling, then thin with some of the cooking water. Warm the potatoes in garlic-infused oil in a skillet, tossing with fried garlic, pimenton and cumin. Serve the potatoes topped with sliced Iberico ham.
Luxurious potato purée: Boil Yukon Gold potatoes, then peel and mash with a ricer. Thin with 1 cup warm half-and-half and fold in 6 tablespoons truffle butter (fresh black winter truffle minced and combined with softened butter, covered and refrigerated overnight), with fresh truffle shaved over the finished potatoes before serving.