I can’t believe that we’re already one week into October, and that Thanksgiving is only one week away! You know this means lot’s of Thanksgiving food headed your way this week right? (If you’re looking for even more inspiration you can check out my Thanksgiving archive.)
Thanksgiving would not be complete without fluffy mashed potatoes and a flavourful gravy to drowned them in. My potatoes weren’t always fluffy, and my gravy wasn’t always flavourful. But over the years I’ve learned how to perfect both of these comforting side dishes. And today I’m sharing my tips and recipes with you!
These are both fairly easy to perfect, but if you haven’t made them often (or ever) it can be hard to know all the tricks to getting them just right. First up let’s talk potatoes.
Perfect, Fluffy Mashed Potatoes
- I like to use Russet potatoes because they have a higher starch content and mash more easily. Meaning you can get a smoother end product with less mashing, which makes for a fluffier mashed potato that doesn’t turn to glue.
- Cut the potatoes into even sized cubes for even cooking. This will prevent any unwanted lumps of uncooked potato when it comes time to mash.
- To test for doneness remove one potato cube from the boiling water and mash with a fork. When it mashes easily, and appears fluffy, it’s done!
- For tastier mashed potatoes add seasonings to the cooking water. My favourites are salt and a bay leaf. They add oomph to the tastiness factor without standing out.
- Mash hot, dry potatoes. The drier the potatoes are before mashing the better. Remove excess water by placing the pot back on the heat after draining. This will help evaporate the water to ensure fluffy potatoes
- Add hot milk and melted butter. It’s important to keep the potatoes hot while mashing so that they mash more easily, which will give them a smoother, fluffier consistency. Heating up the milk and butter means you won’t be cooling anything down.
- Wetter is better. Err on the side of making your potatoes more wet then dry, as they will continue to absorb liquid as they sit.
- 2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1.5 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3-1/2 cup milk or cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- salt and pepper, to taste
Place potatoes in a pot, add cold water until potatoes are covered by an inch or so. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Let cook until potatoes are cooked through. (Remove one cube and place it on a plate. If it mashes easily with a fork and appears fluffy, it’s done.)
Meanwhile, place milk (or cream), and butter into a small saucepan. Allow to cook until steaming (if using milk, do not boil).
Once potatoes are cooked, remove the bay leaf and strain the potatoes. Return the potatoes back to the pot and place back on the heat. Allow to cook until any excess water is evaporated. Break up the potatoes with a potato masher. Add hot milk and butter, a little at a time and mash, until potatoes are smooth and fluffy (the amount of milk will vary on the consistency you prefer). Season generously with salt and pepper.
Perfect, Flavourful Gravy
- If you’re like me and prefer to use whole wheat flour over all-purpose flour, you can easily use it in your gravy with no ill-effects. In fact, I think it adds a deeper flavour. Of course, finely ground whole wheat flour will work best, to keep things smooth.
- For best flavour use fat and liquid that is released from cooking meat (such as roast chicken or beef). Strain the liquid from the pan and let it sit, so the fat rises to the top. Skim off the fat and use it in the recipe below. Save the liquid to use in the recipe as well. You can top them up with another fat or cooking liquid, such as butter or chicken stock, if you do not have the amounts required in the recipe.
- For extra depth of flavour, cook the roux until browned and nutty. This will give it a richer, fuller flavour.
- Strain the gravy to ensure an extra smooth gravy free of lumps.
- Even if you don’t cook up any meat or your meat doesn’t produce much liquid or fat, you can still make a delicious gravy. Use butter for the fat and chicken (or beef) stock for the liquid. Season it well with salt and pepper (and remember to brown that roux!).
- 1/4 cup reserved fat from meat drippings (or use butter)
- 6 tablespoons whole wheat or all-purpose flour
- 2+ cups liquid from meat drippings (or use chicken, or beef, stock)
- salt and pepper, to taste
Set a small pot over medium heat. Add fat; allow to melt. Add flour; cook, whisking often until the mixture is a rich brown and has a nutty smell. Slowly add liquid, a little at a time, whisking until smooth between each addition, until the two cups are fully incorporated. Add more liquid, if desired, until the desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper. Strain to remove any lumps or small pieces of meat.
Makes approximately: 2 cups
Techniques and recipes learned at Rouxbe.com.