Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Secret to Sinfully Simple Mashed Potatoes

Those are some tasty taters. 

A short and savoury post for a cold and blustery windsday:

Sometimes in life, we take it upon ourselves to make things bigger, badder and more complicated; thinking that more stuff, more good, will make something exponentially better.

A really good example of this phenomenon are treats that frequently appear on blogs with two-breath length names like “Brownies with Peanut Butter, Fudge, Cheesecake, Toffee, Caramel, Browned Butter and Pumpkin”  and don’t get me wrong, I’m all for excess and definitely all for delicious, but sometimes, it’s the simple things that taste so darn good.

I was a little introspective today, (if you know me really well and are reading this, you might chuckle, because I’m one of those people who is introspective every day – a chronic “over-thinker” if you will), and I started thinking about excess, about too much, about how that can become the norm.

Somewhere along the lines, I think people started thinking that delicious wasn’t good enough, that things needed to be wham-bang-over-the-top to make them good. But it’s a natural progression, when you get used to awesome, somehow awesome doesn’t seem so special anymore.

Those thoughts came to me while I was pondering my dinner for tonight; I was trying to determine what I could have that would be delicious and satisfying, but nothing was living up to my holiday feast-laden expectations. I needed a hit, something better than turkey or prime rib, because I’d already had the good stuff, and didn’t feel like going back to normal food.

I decided to go cold turkey (Figuratively of course. Does anyone have any cold turkey?! I could really use a gravy sodden sandwich right now. Nevermind.) Tonight’s dinner: Shanghai bok choi (steamed with some garlic and spicy peppers), plain basmati rice, and pecans with quinoa. Light, healthy and not at all hedonistic.

Which brings me back to the potatoes: These are not your totally loaded mashed taters. They don’t have bacon or piles of cheese, no garlic and certainly no lobster. But they are beyond good. I’m telling you, there’s something magical in their simplicity.

My new key to mashed potatoes is
(…drumroll please):  bay leaves.

Now I know, I’m not the only one to think of this, and it’s certainly not new, but I’ll bet that most of you haven’t tried putting bay leaves in the boiling water of your potatoes.

Mashed potatoes are one of the easiest dishes to make. Ever.  If you’re reading this from a basement apartment with a hot-plate, a pot and a fork, you can make mashed potatoes.

Sinfully Simple Mashed Potatoes:
  • Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 large per person)
  • Bay leaves (2 or 3)
  • Salt!
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Green onions (if you must)
  • A little bit of sour cream (again, if you must)

Basically making mashed potatoes is a fairly straight-forward process, but for those of you just joining us, here’s how it goes:
  1. Chop potatoes into chunks (bit bigger than bite sized for efficiency). Peel if you want (I don’t)
  2. Start potatoes in cold water with the bay leaves.
  3. Boil until they slide easily off of a fork
  4. Drain in a colander and leave for 3 minutes (take out the bay leaves)
  5. Mash with a potato masher (or fork if that’s all you have)
  6. Toss in a bit of butter (about a spoonful per person), the green onions, some salt (quite a bit!) and a splash of milk
  7. Mix together with a fork and serve hot

There are those out there that will claim that using a potato ricer creates the creamiest texture and therefore best potatoes, and that’s all fine and dandy if you want your potatoes to behave like porridge, but I like mine to have a bit of meat to them. Sidenote: for the love of all things holy and tasty, please don’t use a hand blender to whip your potatoes, it’s just wrong.

I know this seems like a really simple thing to talk about on a food blog, but if you do it right, the basic things can really make you happy (and impress the people you cook for, if you’re into that sort of thing). This little addition of a savoury herb makes all of the difference in the world. Try it! Let me know what you think.

All my love,


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