Say goodbye to subpar garlic mashed potatoes forever
Potatoes are my second favorite food and they are a wonderful side dish for countless BBQ and grilling main courses. I can eat them any way you can cook them. I recently had some great garlic mashed in a restaurant, without gravy, and they were so delicate, mellow, and sweet. Not that heavy G-A-R-L-I-C breath stuff. I immediately went to work trying to duplicate them. But I failed. I came close when I roasted the garlic first, but no cigar. That’s because I didn’t know the secrets to great garlic mashed until Chef Kurt Lucas of Organic Fresh Fingers taught me. He has been the Executive Chef at Oregon State University and he has worked for Michel Richard, the famous French Chef of Citronella in DC.
The secret Chef Lucas taught me is boiling the garlic to reduce its pungence and increase its mellow sweetness. And lots of butter. Most mashed potato recipes call for cream, half-and-half, or milk. This recipe is so good and creamy you don’t need any cream in the mix or gravy on the table. But if you insist, you can mix in some cream or half-and-half, but taste it first!
Another secret, one I have learned the hard way, is to mash potatoes only with an old fashioned wire potato masher or a potato ricer. Potatoes are about 80% water and most of the rest is starch. Most of that starch is trapped in little pillowlike granules. The spinning blades of a food processor, blender, or a mixer can tear open those granules and produce gummy wallpaper paste. Whipped potatoes are another technique and another recipe.
Makes:About 2 pounds
- 2 pounds Russet Burbank or Yukon Gold potatoes (after peeling)
- 6 cloves garlic medium
- ¼ pound unsalted butter or margarine cut into ½ inch chunks
- 6 pinches Morton coarse kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper fresher is better
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs your favorites
These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page
- Cook. We want to begin by de-fanging the garlic of its sulfury pungence and convert it to sweetness by cooking it. Chef Lucas recommends you peel the garlic cloves, remove the woody root, and cut them in half. Bring a non-reactive saucepan with a quart of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt and the garlic. Boil the garlic for about 15 minutes. You need lots of water to remove all the pungence of the garlic. While the garlic boils, cut the butter into 1/2 inch chunks.
- While the garlic is cooking, get another pot of water boiling. Don't use the garlic water for the potatoes! Make sure you have enough water to submerge the potatoes about an inch below the surface. Add two pinches of salt. Wash the potatoes and cut them into thumb-sized chunks. Try to get the chunks about the same size so they all finish cooking about the same time. When the water is boiling, add the potatoes and boil them until a fork pierces them with only a little resistance, about 15 minutes, depending on how large the chunks are. Don't overcook the potatoes so that the exterior is mushy and they fall apart when you pierce them. Chef Lucas warns that "overcooked potatoes tend to soak up water and can become runny."
- Drain the garlic, drop it into the serving bowl, and add the chunks of butter, three pinches of salt, black pepper, and herbs. Mash everything into a paste with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes thoroughly and keep them in the hot pot to dry them out a bit more. I like mine with some chunks, more smashed than mashed, so I just dump them into the bowl and use an old-fashioned wire masher. If you like yours smooth, use a potato ricer (it looks like a giant garlic press). Squeeze them through the holes into the bowl and mix with a large spoon. Don't use a mixer or you run the risk of making glue.
- Serve. Before serving, taste and add more salt and pepper if you wish.Optional. Here's where you can add cheese, meat, or cream. I recommend you do the recipe as is the first time, and then riff on it the second time if you wish.Holding mashed potatoes. Getting all the parts of a meal ready at once is the trickiest part of cooking, so if the rest of the meal isn't ready when the spuds are, you can keep them warm in a slow cooker or heat them in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes just before serving.