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Thanksgiving Survival Guide

The Mashed Potatoes

November 18, 1998

Mashed potatoes are comforting, but making them can be nerve-racking if you can't decide which method to use. There are many. When it comes to consistency, they can be creamy or smooth, fluffy or light. They should not, of course, be heavy or gloppy. But alas, there is not one universal method to making mashed potatoes. The best mashing tool and the lump vs. no lump issue are matters of personal taste. The ricer, however, tends to create a fluffier texture while an electric mixer may induce a gluey consistency.

To ensure that your mashed potatoes are delectable, be particular when selecting the potato. Of the two basic varieties--boiling and baking--the latter is best suited for mashing because of its low sugar and high starch content.

Generally speaking, rely on the thick-skinned potatoes such as russets. Select potatoes that are firm and free from large cuts, growth cracks and sprouting eyes. Avoid any with green-tinged skins. Soaking the potatoes after peeling prevents them from turning brown.


Mashed Potatoes

Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes. Active Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

6 baking potatoes

1/2 to 3/4 cup hot milk, evaporated milk, half and half or whipping cream

1/4 cup butter

Salt, pepper

* Cook potatoes, by either boiling or steaming.

* To boil, in heavy saucepan with tight-fitting lid, cook potatoes in about 1 inch boiling, salted water until fork-tender. If whole, cook 30 to 40 minutes; if cut up, 20 to 25 minutes. If lid doesn't fit tightly, water may boil away. Check occasionally and add more water if necessary.

* To steam, place wire rack on bottom of kettle or large saucepan and add water to just below level of rack. Bring water to boil, add potatoes and cook, tightly covered, until fork-tender. If whole, cook 30 to 45 minutes; if cut up, 20 to 30 minutes. If lid is not tight-fitting, check occasionally to see if water should be added.

* Peel potatoes (this can also be done before cooking). Use potato masher, electric mixer or ricer to mash potatoes.

* With potato masher, press tool into potatoes in downward motion, forcing potatoes through cutting grid. With electric mixer, begin by mashing potatoes slightly with stationary beaters. Turn mixer on low speed and whip to desired consistency. With ricer, place boiled potatoes in perforated cylinder, then squeeze long handles together to force contents through ricer holes. Let rice-like pieces mound in serving dish.

* Beating with mixer or wooden spoon, gradually add heated milk, evaporated milk, half and half or whipping cream, according to taste. Potatoes will be creamier and thinner if more liquid is used. Finish with softened butter or margarine to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

* Serve immediately or spoon into buttered casserole and smooth light film of cream over top. Keep warm in oven heated to 250 degrees. Cover with towel to absorb steam.

4 servings. Each serving:

250 calories; 216 mg sodium; 33 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.73 gram fiber.

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