So this may seem odd, given my great and well-documented love for Southern comfort food, but I’m not usually the biggest fan of mashed potatoes. To me they’re like the vanilla extract of side dishes — potentially delicious, but usually in need of a partner.
When I was a kid, my dad used to drive me to KFC as a treat once in awhile after piano lessons or swim practices. Man, I got all up in that meal. Two piece meal, all legs, Original, mashed potatoes and coleslaw, please, thank you. But I’m pretty sure I spent half my time (after tearing into those Original chicken legs like a starved shipwreck survivor) trying to figure out how to make those mashed potatoes more palatable. Leftover fried chicken bits mixed in? Spread thick on a biscuit? With … the coleslaw? (I wish I could say I didn’t try that, but I did. … And I liked it.) However you slice it, the mashed potatoes were the one thing on that plate I didn’t devour with single-minded ferocity.
I realize I’m making it sound like I was very into my KFC experience. I was. I was very into KFC.
Anyway. I’ve come to realize that making mashed potatoes from scratch does a thing or two or trillion for them. But a few months ago, I came across these glorious-looking roasted garlic smashed potatoes on The Baker Chick, and that was a real game-changer.
First, this salt potato thing is genius. Boil the potatoes in well-salted water, pasta-style, and the result is a flavorful skin and a creamier potato. Smash it all up with butter and milk, leaving the skins
because you’re lazy because they’re nutritious and have fiber and such. Then, add to that a couple of cloves of golden fried garlic. (That should have been one awesome head of roasted garlic, but I got impatient.) Finally, throw in one pan of sage leaves crisped up in brown butter? It turns out mashed potatoes can do the damn thing all on their own after all.
- 2 lbs Yukon potatoes
- about 1/2 cup salt for boiling
- 1/2 stick (2 oz, or 4 tbsp) butter
- 4-5 sage leaves
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- oil for frying
- 2 oz cream cheese, creme fraiche, or sour cream (optional but delicious)
- about 1/4 cup whole milk or cream, or enough to reach desired consistency
- black pepper to taste
- Wash potatoes with a bristle brush or stiff sponge to clean them. Combine 6-8 cups of water, 1/2 cup salt, and potatoes in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-high heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the potato slides easily through the entire potato.
- While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sage leaves and let cook until leaves are crisp and the butter has both turned a rich brown and given off a nutty aroma. Pour into a bowl, leaves and all, and set aside.
- Add a bit more oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute until the garlic crisps and turns golden. Turn off the heat, remove the pan from heat and set aside.
- When potatoes are ready, drain them, rinse the pot, and add potatoes back to the pot. Placing the pot over very low heat, mash the potatoes with a potato masher or, if you're like me and have problems acquiring new kitchen tools, a large fork. Mashing them over low heat will allow extra moisture to escape (says The Pioneer Woman). (Note: For fluffier, lighter potatoes, press the potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill.)
- Add most of the brown butter to the potatoes, reserving the sage leaves and a bit of butter for topping (if desired). Add the cream cheese, and half the minced garlic (reserving the rest for topping) and stir gently until incorporated.
- Pour in milk, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring gently until the potatoes reach your desired consistency. I like them a bit sturdier, so I don't add too much milk. Take care not to overmash, or the potatoes will turn gummy.
- Season with black pepper to taste and salt, if needed. Top with remaining brown butter, sage leaves, and minced garlic. Serve!
If you're using roasted garlic, you may want to omit the brown butter and sage and go with regular butter instead, as all three may be a bit overwhelming together.