Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes
Properly made, comfort food is an art. Mashed potatoes are no exception — and, let’s face it, the Thanksgiving table simply isn’t complete without them. And though personal preference may have a lot to do with what you consider the perfect mash (Do you like your potatoes smooth or lumpy? Creamy or fluffy?) there are nevertheless some tips you can follow to elevate your spuds above the rest of the pack.
To start, what potatoes should you use? For light or delicate mashed potatoes, use bakers, like russets. With their high starch content and low sugar, they’ll whip up nice and fluffy, perfect for soaking in all the cream, butter and sour cream you can throw at them. If you prefer mashed potatoes that are denser, more like rustic “smashed potatoes,” use boilers.
Whether to keep the skin on is one of those personal-preference things. I generally peel the potatoes if they have thicker skins — the skins can be a bit chewy. If I’m using thin-skinned potatoes (Yukon Gold, say, or reds) and I’m going for a more rustic look, I’ll leave them on.
More tips? Store peeled potatoes in a bowl of cool water — make sure they’re immersed — before cooking to keep them from browning. And don’t cut the potatoes before you boil them; cook them whole. Cut potatoes are more likely to soak up water as they cook, and nobody wants soggy mashed potatoes.
Mash the potatoes while they’re still hot for the lightest texture. If you’re looking for fluffier texture, run the potatoes through a ricer or use a potato masher. This is one step best done by hand, so skip the electric mixer, as it’s easy to overwork the potatoes, and nobody wants gummy mashed potatoes, either.
And don’t forget the love — starting with the butter. Add some butter for richness and cream or milk to give the potatoes the desired consistency. For a little tang, fold in a touch of sour cream or yogurt. Get fancy and add chopped fresh herbs: chives, rosemary or maybe sage. Or if you really want to dress up your spuds, add a head of roasted garlic. This is Thanksgiving — amp it up.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the top of the pointy tip off the garlic (no peeling necessary), just enough to expose the tips of the cloves. Place the garlic on a small sheet of foil and drizzle a little olive oil over the cut end of the garlic head, then sprinkle a pinch each of salt and pepper. Seal the garlic head in the foil. Place the garlic in the center of the oven (place the foil directly on the rack; you don’t need to put it on a baking sheet) and roast the garlic until the cloves have softened and the garlic is aromatic, 45 minutes to an hour (the garlic can be roasted while you cook the potatoes). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Place the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover by 1 inch and add 1 1/2 tablespoons salt. Cover and bring to a boil, cooking until the potatoes are soft and a knife easily pierces the potatoes, 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain the water out of the pot.
Add the butter to the pot, and squeeze the soft roasted garlic cloves out of their skins into the pot. Use a potato masher to coarsely smash the potatoes and garlic together. Pour over the heavy cream and sour cream and continue to mash to combine (for a coarser texture, stir in the heavy and sour creams with a spatula or wooden spoon). Season the potatoes with 3/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper.
Taste the potatoes, adding additional heavy or sour cream if desired, and adjusting the seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.
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