Think that’s a bold claim?  The best mashed potatoes? You’ll have to give this recipe a try and see if I’m right.

Thanksgiving is next week. Millions of families will be serving mashed potatoes slathered in gravy. There is nothing worse than having subpar mashed potatoes. Gravy, my friends, does not cover up all mashed potato sins. It is not a miracle worker. (That could be a separate post, as could one about making awesome gravy.)

There is nothing worse (for me) than to have a pile of bad mashed potatoes on my plate–be they gluey, dry, or runny. Mashed potatoes are an integral part of your Thanksgiving meal. They are more than just a vehicle for the aforementioned gravy. (Again, that could be a separate post.) You want them to be perfect with or without the gravy.

After hearing how my favorite restaurant makes their heavenly mashed potatoes, we started recreating them at home. The secret?  Simmering the potatoes in whole milk and treating them with care.

Gluey mashed potatoes can happen to anyone. But they don’t have to.

Start with these tips and you won’t go astray:

  • Use a floury or all-purpose potato, such as Russet or Yukon Gold. Red potatoes are waxy and will give you heavy, gluey mashed potatoes.
  • Use a potato ricer or a good old fashioned masher. Using an electric mixer or food processor may take you into the realm of gluey mashed potatoes from which there is no return or rescue. (Potatoes are full of starch and mechanical mashing rips apart those delicate cells and the starch leaks out causing gluiness.  Some people have luck with this, but I never have.)
  • Don’t add too much liquid.  Before I started making mashed potatoes this way, I would boil whole, unpeeled potatoes in water.  This helped prevent the potatoes from absorbing too much water and becoming gluey when I mashed them.  Simmering the peeled potatoes in milk might seem contrary to this idea, but because of the fat content in the milk, it seems to prevent gluiness.  Plus you use only enough milk to cover the potatoes.
  • Only cook the potatoes until tender.  Over or undercooking is a no-no.
  • These potatoes also require a little extra care so the milk doesn’t scorch on the bottom.  I’ve only had it happen once and the outcome wasn’t terrible.  Make sure you keep the heat on low and you shouldn’t have any trouble.

The Best Mashed Potatoes

2 lbs. (about 5 large) Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2″ chunks
scant 2 cups whole milk (don’t use low-fat or skim)
1 tsp. sea salt
Butter (2-4 Tbsp. is good)
a little chopped parsley (optional)

Place the peeled potato cubes in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add salt and pour the whole milk into the pan, just to barely cover the potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain off and reserve the milk. Mash the potatoes with a masher or whisk. Add the reserved milk a little at a time until they are the desired consistency. (If you make the potatoes ahead of time, save any extra reserved milk to add before serving if they are too dry.)

Top with pats of butter and chopped parsley. Makes enough for 4-6 people.

Variations:

I saw a recipe from Tyler Florence recently that uses cream and milk, and grainy mustard. Holy mashed potato! They sound delicious.

Add fresh chopped herbs or roasted garlic. Add some chevre (fresh goat cheese), blue cheese, gruyere, white cheddar, or cream cheese. Toss in a bit of cooked, crumbled bacon, or sprinkle it on top. Instead of butter, drizzle with a bit of best-quality extra virgin olive oil or white truffle oil. The possibilities are endless!