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Two truths produce fluffiest mashed potatoes

November 10, 2009|By GAIL CIAMPA / The Providence Journal

Isn't this the year to master the fluffiest, best-ever mashed potatoes? "How to Cook a Turkey," from the editors and contributors of Fine Cooking magazine, offers this recipe for fluffy mashed potatoes.

It involves two basic truths and one tangy addition.

1. Russets are the best choice for mashed potatoes because of their high starch content.

2. Using a ricer creates the most luxurious, airy texture.

This recipe adds creme fraiche, a thickened cream with a nutty flavor and velvety texture, instead of milk. It's available in most grocery stores, but check among the specialty cheeses to find it. If you can't find it, substitute equal parts sour cream and heavy cream.

But back to spuds. Here are some other tips from Fine Cooking for making mashed potatoes, a lost art among some of us.

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o Start the potatoes in cold water and bring them to a simmer. This allows them to cook evenly.

o Simmer them gently. If they boil violently, they'll fall apart.

o Test for doneness with a metal skewer.

o Drain thoroughly, shaking to rid the potatoes of excess water. Return them to the pot over low heat and stir to dry them fully.

o If you don't use a ricer, you can use a potato masher or food mill.

o Never uses a food processor as that will overwork them and produce a gluey texture.

o You can make these potatoes ahead of time and gently reheat them over low heat, either in a double boiler or very carefully in a microwave. You may need to stir in a little more liquid to loosen the consistency.

ULTIMATE FLUFFY MASHED POTATOES



1-3/4 to 2 pounds russet potatoes
Kosher salt
1 cup creme fraiche (see note)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Freshly ground white pepper

Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks, about 1-1/2-to 2 inches. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add a generous 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer, cover the pot partially, and cook until the potatoes are quite tender when tested with a metal skewer, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the creme fraiche (or heavy cream and sour cream) in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth and just hot. Set aside in a warm spot.

Drain the potatoes and dump them back into the pan. Dry the potatoes over medium heat, shaking the pan and stirring until the potatoes look floury and leave a light film on the bottom of the pan. If using a ricer, dump the potatoes into a bowl and then rice them back into the pot set over very low heat. If using a hand masher, mash them in the pot until completely smooth.

Using a wooden spoon, beat in the lemon zest and butter. Add the creme fraiche in small additions, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Season with salt and pepper and serve right away.

Note: Creme fraiche is in most grocery stores, sometimes in the cheese section. As an alternative, use 1/2 cup heavy cream plus 1/2 cup sour cream. Serves four to six.

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