Mashed Potatoes are a quick and easy-to-make comfort food. It’s one of those foods that I never use a recipe to make. Long ago I learned how to boil the potatoes, whip them, add a little butter and milk, and whip a bit more to combine.
Given how easy it is to make Mashed Potatoes, I was very surprised to discover a hundred-year-old recipe for Mashed Potatoes that contained extensive detail. Back then even the most complex recipes were generally short and lacked details, Why would recipes for difficult-to-make foods leave a huge amount of latitude for interpretation, while a recipe for a basic food be very specific?
This recipe referred to two other recipes. One explained how to boil potatoes:
The other recipe mentioned in the Mashed Potato recipe was the Potato in the Half Shell recipe, which contained information about how much butter, milk, and salt should be used when making potatoes:
I generally use electric beaters to make “mashed” potatoes, but I decided to give the old-time recipe a try. I dug out my old potato masher out from under all my other seldom-used kitchen utensils in the back of bottom drawer in the kitchen cabinets, and made real mashed potatoes.
Here’s the old recipe updated for modern cooks:
4 cups potatoes, pared and cut into 1-inch cubes (4-6 potatoes) (I used red potatoes – though russets would also work well.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
approximately 1/4 cup milk
Put enough water into a large saucepan so that it is about 1/3 filled; add salt and bring to a boil using high heat. Add diced potatoes; return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft when poked with a fork. Remove from heat and drain. Using a wire potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the butter and half the milk. Mash a little more to combine. If the potatoes are too stiff, add additional milk until the potatoes reach the desired consistency. (Do not over-mash or the potatoes will get gummy.) Reheat the mashed potatoes using medium heat To reheat, put the pan with the mashed potatoes back on the stove using medium heat for 15-30 seconds; stir once or twice. Remove from heat and put in serving dish.