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November 13, 2013

Do-ahead mashed potatoes save time, sanity

(Continued)

In the spirit of rigorous open-mindedness, I tested them both for this recipe and ended up going with the russet. I just liked the taste better. In the same spirit, I tested two different cooking methods — baked and boiled. And the baked version won hands-down. The flavor was just more potato-y. Admittedly, baking takes longer than boiling, but you save time because there’s no peeling or dicing needed.

There are three tools for mashing a potato: the food mill, the potato masher and the potato ricer. Most home cooks don’t have a food mill, so we’ll ignore that. The masher produces lumpy mashed potatoes, but some folks like them just fine that way. The ricer, designed like a potato-sized garlic press, is my favorite of the three. Of course, if you have none of these gadgets in your house, you can just use a fork.

But whatever you do, do not put the hot, cooked potatoes in a food processor, blender or mixer. You will end up with wallpaper paste.

In an effort to slim down this classic recipe, I have used low-fat milk in place of cream or whole milk, with just a touch of butter (you have to have some butter), and a cup of low-fat sour cream, which provides creamy texture and savory tang.

MAKE-AHEAD LIGHT MASHED POTATOES

Start to finish: 1 day plus 1 hour and 20 minutes (20 minutes active)

Servings: 10

10 small to medium russet potatoes (about 5 pounds)

1 to 11/2 cups low-fat milk

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 chunks

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Use a paring knife to prick the potatoes in several places. Place the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake on the oven’s middle shelf until a knife goes through with no resistance, about 45 to 50 minutes. After they are baked, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

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