You either love potatoes or you don’t, you either adore mashed potoatoes or recoil in horror at their flowing mushiness.
I happen to think mashed potatoes are a good reason to be alive. Even vegans can enjoy an ersatz version (I made a vegan-friendly mash a couple of weeks ago, using rice milk instead of cow’s milk, and a pseudo-butter concoction that I bought in a health food store). An expat blogger on all things Roman and/or Italian wrote plaintively of her discovery in a Roman supermarket of ready-made mashed potatoes, and I can see why she would. How sad. I can understand why anyone would want to buy ready-made gnocchi (they do take a while to make) but what is so difficult about mashed potatoes?
Ingredients: loads of butter, milk, salt and white pepper, a twist of nutmeg, a few tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese and, of course, the potatoes themselves (I peel them but apparently this is lèse majesté in the mashed potato experts’ world, including Dario Bressanini – who is a scientist after all and can explain why this is strictly necessary – and delightful chef Viviana Lapertosa on a Swiss TV programme:
Get to Work:
(1) Peel the potatoes, put them in a pan, cover them with cold water and cook until they are tender. Depending on the potato, this will take 20 minutes.
While the potatoes are boiling, get your other ingredients ready and in attendance;
(2) Put the butter, grated parmesan, twist of nutmeg, twist of white pepper and a good sprinkle of salt directly inside another saucepan. Have a glass of milk and your potato masher or potato ricer on stand-by. When the potatoes are ready to yield, don’t bother draining them. Take them out of the water and put them into the potato ricer.(3) Squeeze hard … The heat of the potatoes will melt the butter and the cheese. Here they all are.(4) Now add the milk (you could have warmed the milk previously if you wanted to go that extra mile …). Taste and add more salt if necessary. If the consistency of the mash is not fluid enough, do by all means add more milk.(5) Whisk energetically so that all the ingredients combine into the lightest of textures. If the potatoes have cooled down somewhat, you could this over a flame. Fluffy mashed potatoes, ready to be served.
Ooops, sorry … couldn’t resist.
As you can see … we are talking about five steps and, in terms of time, 30 minutes from start to finish (the potatoes have to be peeled, and they need 20 minutes to cook). No excuse for not making mashed potatoes, none whatsoever. They don’t need a lot of fussing over while they are cooking, which would leave you time for a shower, a phone call, a lover’s tryst (albeit perhaps a hurried one).