Potato Recipes and Tips

Potatoes 101

Traditional Mashed Potatoes. Linda Larsen

Thanksgiving and Christmas just wouldn't be the same without some delicious potato dish. You can make traditional mashed potatoes, simply cook and rice them, use your trusty crockpot, use potato flakes, refrigerated mashed potatoes, or make a potato casserole. Here are some of my favorites potato recipes and tips. Be sure to read Potato Science before you begin so you understand what's happening inside those potatoes as you use them.

Then enjoy delicious potatoes with your perfect holiday meal.

Traditional Mashed Potatoes

For the most traditional recipe, peel the potatoes, cut into quarters and cook in rapidly boiling salted water (about 1/2 tsp. salt) until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes (save some of the water for the gravy!), then return the potatoes to the hot pot and place over very low heat. Shake the pan constantly and heat the potatoes to drive off any excess water. This makes the fluffiest mashed potatoes.

According to Cook's Illustrated, add the ingredients in this order. Butter first; this coats the potato starch so the potatoes don't become gluey. Then add the warmed liquid, usually milk or cream, and beat with an electric beater until fluffy. You can also use that old-fashioned potato masher for real authenticity. Don't use a food processor or blender, or the mashed potatoes will be thick, gluey and sticky.

HOT TIP! If you want to avoid the work of peeling potatoes, just scrub them well, cut each potato in half, and cook in boiling salted water as above, dry in pan as above. Then place two halves, cut side down, in a potato ricing mill and press. The skin will stay behind in the ricer! Remove the skin and repeat this process until all the potatoes have been riced.

Easier Mashed Potatoes

For no last minute rushing, make your potatoes ahead of time, refrigerate and reheat using the Make Ahead Crockpot Mashed Potatoes recipe. You can also cook the potatoes in the crockpot and keep them warm in the crockpot or slow cooker. Or do as we do in my family - just cook the potatoes, drain them, dry them in the pot as described above, then put them through a potato ricing mill. You don't need to add anything to these potatoes except put a chunk of butter on top when they're all in the serving dish. You end up with perfect, lump-free, delicate potatoes! (And the leftover riced potatoes are perfect for making lefse, that Norwegian potato pancake treat.) But this is a last-minute operation.

Or you can use the new steam-and-mash potatoes that are now on the market. All you have to do is steam the potatoes in the microwave, pour into a bowl, and add butter, milk, or sour cream and mash. They taste just like homemade mashed potatoes.

    Easiest Potatoes

    You have several choices for the easiest mashed potatoes.

    • Use potato flakes! I worked in the Horticulture Department at the University of Minnesota when I was getting my Food Science degree, and potato flakes were one of the foods I tested. Potatoes flakes are make from real potatoes, and their quality is very good. Make them according to the package directions, then add a little sour cream and grated Parmesan cheese. They'll taste fabulous. Or make my Buffalo Mashed Potatoes that taste just like freshly made mashed potatoes.
    • Buy refrigerated or frozen prepared mashed potatoes. Stir in a little heavy cream and a bit of melted butter when you heat them for some homemade flavor.