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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Variations on a Theme

For years Charlie claimed not to like potatoes.  Who doesn't like potatoes?  Being the people pleaser that I am (those who know me well might disagree with this description), I just never made potatoes.  Instead we had pasta or rice as the "starch" course at dinner.

At some point several years ago, I decided that it was ridiculous that a kid was dictating our choice of side dish and I rebelled.  I rediscovered the beauty of the mashed potato.  Hello gorgeous.  Where have you been all my life?

My renewed "relationship" with mashed potatoes started with the recipe for Balthazar's garlic mashed potatoes.  The recipe called for a Paula Deen sized helping of butter, cream, and a ton of garlic.  They were sublime.   In my humble opinion, the Balthazar garlic mashed potato is the gold standard by which all other mashed potatoes are measured.
I didn't really grow up in a mashed potato eating family.  My mother didn't really have a recipe.  Just a couple of boiled potatoes, some butter, and a potato masher.  Nothing fancy, but tasty nonetheless.

But I digress.  Shortly after the Balthazar potatoes, I discovered Ina Garten and her buttermilk mashed potatoes.  How could I have known the happiness that could be brought with just a boiled potato?  The buttermilk version was easier and didn't quite have the artery clogging decadence of the first recipe.  Subsequently, Ina has published a garlic mashed potato recipe which is quite tasty as well.

The point of all this is that there are a million ways to make mashed potatoes and most all of them will produce something satisfying.  Charlie still doesn't like mashed potatoes but that's just too bad about him.  There's just no going back.

Balthazar Garlic Mashed Potatoes
(Balthazar Cookbook, 2003)


10 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in thirds
2 cups heavy cream
6 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons salt
3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Combine the garlic and the cream in a small saucepan over a medium flame.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 15 to 30 minutes, until the garlic is very soft.  Pour the mixture into a blender and puree.  (Keep a firm grip on the lid, as the heat from the cream mixture will force it up.)  Set aside, to be reheated either in a saucepan or in a microwave before adding it to the final dish.  (The garlic infused cream can be prepared a day in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.)

Put the potatoes in a large pot, cover with water by 2 inches, and add 1 tablespoon of the salt.  Bring to a boil and cook for 20 - 25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Drain in a colander.  While still warm, press the potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl.  Reheat the garlic infused cream.

Use a rubber spatula to slowly fold in the butter with the warm garlic cream.  Season with the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt and the pepper.  Serve immediately.

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