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do the mash how to make mashed potatoes 
by Yee-Fan Sun
 | 1 2

Sure, think Thanksgiving and the big browned turkey is the first food that comes to mind. And certainly, no Thanksgiving table is complete without the cranberry sauce and stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. But I have to admit that one of my favorite Thanksgiving foods is also one of the most ordinary: mashed potatoes.

People make such a fuss over proper mashed potato protocol that you might think that good mashed potatoes are a challenge to make. Many connoisseurs will tell you that you abso-positively must you one specific variety of potato in order to have tasty mashed potatoes, or that the ricer is inherently superior to the lowly masher as the mashing tool of choice. The thing is, they're only partly right. Different potatoes and different techniques can produce very different results -- but the right method depends more upon how you personally like your mashed potatoes, more so than any one "right" way. Whether you like them creamy and dense or light and fluffy, smooth or just a little bit lumpy, check out our basic guide on how to get your mashed potatoes the way you like them…

one potato, two potato: picking those potatoes
Mashed potatoes can be made with any potato you like, but different varieties will yield vastly different results. Picking the right potato isn't a matter of choosing the "best," but deciding how you personally like your mashed potatoes. Like them light and fluffy? Then you'll want to go with your basic old high-starch Idaho/Russet potatoes -- you know, the big ones with the rough brown skin. Want your mashed potatoes to be creamy-smooth and dense? Then you'll want a higher-moisture potato -- like red-skinned taters. If you're indecisive, you can even do half-and-half. Or go with a medium-starch all-purpose potato, like Yukon Golds.

As for quantity, I generally estimate about ½-3/4 pound of potato per person, depending upon how many other dishes there are, and whether I want leftovers.

cutting 'em down to size
If you're planning to peel your potatoes, do so before you cook them -- unless you're really looking forward to burning your fingers removing the skins post-boil. Leaving the skin on can impart a nice texture to your mashed potatoes, however, so peeling is more a matter of personal preference than necessity. If you do want the skin, though, make sure to scrub your taters thoroughly. Once they're peeling/cleaned, chunk up the potatoes into a uniform size. You want them small enough that they'll cook quickly, but not so tiny that they'll absorb heaps of water -- about a 1"-sized cube is good.

what's cooking
As you're cutting them, place the potato chunks in a big pot filled with cold water -- this will prevent them from discoloring. Once you've finished cutting up the potatoes, make sure they're well covered with water. Toss the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat till you have a gentle bubble, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Start checking for doneness at 10 minutes -- it's essential not to overcook or undercook. Taking the potatoes out too soon will mean you'll have to put a lot of muscle into mashing them up; letting them cook too long will cause the potatoes to get too starchy -- resulting in a gooey mess. As soon as the potatoes are perfectly tender and cooked all the way through, drain them in a colander, then return them to the pot.

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