Simply Smashing Mashed Potatoes

Famous food folks share their secrets for superlative spuds.

When I make mashed potatoes, I reach for the electric mixer. That's my way, but I decided to ask a few famous foodies to reveal their favorite ways to prepare and serve the ultimate comfort food.

• "People are quite definite about how they like their mashed potatoes," says Julia Child, who uses baking potatoes or Yukon golds, preferring the latter. "I don't use any fancy salts, just plain, regular table salt," she reports. "I always use plain table salt for recipe testing, because that's what most people have in their kitchens." Garlic and white pepper also make very good additions, she says.

• The late American epicure James Beard liked white pepper, too, but only added it at the table, says Clay Triplett, steward of the Beard House in New York City. "Mr. Beard liked good old-fashioned mashed potatoes made from dirty-brown russets," Triplett recalls. "Most of the time, I was the one who made mashed potatoes for him, and usually there were no leftovers."

• Domestic doyenne Martha Stewart says she prefers California long white potatoes with "lots of freshly ground black pepper." She sometimes adds softened cream cheese to mashed potatoes, but never other flavorings like garlic or herbs.

• Flamboyant chef and TV personality Bobby Flay is a purist. "After forcing the hot potatoes through a ricer, I use a wooden spoon to stir in the scalded milk and then some soft butter along with salt and white pepper," he says. At Bolo, Flay's Spanish restaurant in New York City, they serve basil mashed potatoes "marbled with pesto that is barely stirred in."

Host of Food TV's Sara's Secrets, Sara Moulton confesses that when she's at home, she prefers to make "plain-Jane mashed potatoes." Yet, as the executive chef for Gourmet, she sometimes adds fresh herbs, garlic, or cheese when feeding a crowd at the magazine.

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