I love when people fool around with mashed potatoes. I once went to a Thanksgiving dinner that had three versions of mashed sweet potatoes and no fluffy-white-mashed-potatoes. This seemed a crime to me. I love the wasabi mashed at Union Square and I loved the truffle mashed I had somewhere else some time. However at most times, and especially at Thanksgiving, there is just too much to be said for an awesome bunch of whipped potatoes.
I remember the big punishment for low-ranking military personnel on the sitcoms of my youth being peeling potatoes. I have also peeled potatoes with cheap peelers and paring knives, so I see that for a long time this must have been an arduous task. It seems silly to say, but I believe we must have made huge jumps in peeler technology. I actually have two, a Good Grips and an OXO. I timed it last night, and it took me fifteen minutes to peel ten pounds of potatoes. I timed it because, for the last ten or so years, my contention that real mashed potatoes are so much better than fake has fallen on the deaf ears of my family. At all holidays they are happy to let me make them, and they eat them, and praise them, however they keep instant in their homes.
Here is what I did last night and, in about one hour, mostly in front of the TV, I made a huge batch of fluffy-white-mashed-potatoes.
10pm: threw 10 pounds of potatoes in the sink and rinsed them, placing the rinsed ones on the cutting board.
10:02pm: started peeling, letting the peelings fall on 3 paper towels I put on the counter and placing the peeled potatoes in a large bowl of cold water.
10:17pm: transferred the peeled potatoes to my 2 largest pots (unless you have one pot that fits 10 lbs) cutting them to roughly the size of the smallest whole potato. Rolled the peelings up in the 3 towels they were on and threw them in the garbage.
10:18pm: put a fistful of kosher salt in both pots and put in enough cold water to cover.
10:20pm: put lids on both pots and placed on high heat.
10:22pm: put 3 cups heavy cream and 3 cups milk on a low flame in a saucepan.
10:24pm: pulled 2 sticks of butter from fridge and sliced each into about 8 slices that I left on the counter.
10:25pm: went to sit on the couch.
10:32pm: first pot starts boiling over, backed the flame off a little and started a 20-minute counter. Back to couch.
10:40pm: second pot starts boiling, back off flame and start another 20-minute timer. (The joy of stainless over anodized aluminum, boils 8 minutes faster) Back to couch.
10:52pm: pulled the first pot off the, flame dumped into a colander with a slotted spoon, moved hot potatoes from colander to potato ricer and riced them. (This was the first time I ever used a ricer; I was a masher guy. The Good Grips ricer was $19.95 and as far as ease/resulting texture, I gotta tell you, money very well spent.)
10:56pm: put the bits of one stick of butter and half the warm cream/milk combo in and stirred with a wooden spoon, salted aggressively.
11:00pm: repeated with pot 2 except now salt and ground pepper to taste.
11:05pm: called Wife in to taste and started to worry there would be none left for the next day, when they can just be reheated in a 350° oven.
For the one hour spent while watching TV, the resulting batch of mashed potatoes feeds about 20 people and is, literally, the kind of thing that makes more poetic people talk about crawling up inside and going to sleep.