Mashed potato technique: work the potatoes or not?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by french fries, May 29, 2012.

  1. french fries

    french fries

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    Yesterday I made mashed potatoes and they were really good, however I constantly try to improve and I like to understand the various techniques that are being used. 

    One thing that I don't fully grasp is that on one hand, I know that using a food processor to puree the potatoes is a big no-no because  it somehow turns the starch into sugar and in the end you get a sweet gooey sticky mess instead of light fluffy mash. Got it. I use a food mill. 

    But on the other hand, I see Chefs "work" the mashed potatoes in a pan for 5mn or more before adding the butter. I understand that you have to dry the potatoes, and that working them like that gives them a smoother texture... but when I see videos of Robuchon really whipping the potatoes very hard for 5mn non-stop like his life depends on it, I'm left wondering: 

    Isn't that action also turning starch into sugar? 

    As far as my experience, it doesn't seem like it does (my mash has a better texture when I work it hard for 5mn over low fire before adding the butter) - but I don't understand why. 
     
  2. cape chef

    cape chef

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    It's not starch to sugar, it's avoiding gluten development.Always mash vertically when possible.
     
  3. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    OK, now I'm curious, are potatoes a no-no for gluten sensitive/celiac people?

    I was not aware that potatoes contained gluten.
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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  5. french fries

    french fries

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    Thanks, very good info. 

    Firstly I realize I used the word "mashed potatoes" to mean puree. I thought they were the same, apparently puree is smoother and mashed potatoes is a rougher texture? 

    Secondly I realize that if the FP cuts through the cells, maybe the wooden spatula I use to beat the potatoes into shape in the pan does not? 

    What about you guys, do you also vigorously beat the potatoes in the pan for 5mn before adding anything to them? I'm talking about the kind of actual workout that will make you tired. I used to not do that (instead I would just slowly stir as I was drying them in the pan for 5mn), but I have noticed improved texture and mouth feel ever since I started beating them up with the wooden spatula. After I've incorporated the cold butter and hot milk, I switch to a whisk to further smooth them and incorporate a bit of air. 
     
  6. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    I've given up making mashed potatoes.  I never make them really good, they either come out too tough, too watery, safe to say I'm no good at it.  At home I stick with the instant kind, I like them very much yes I do and if you have a problem with that bring it on.  After tasting the pomme puree at Tom Colicchio's Craft restaurant I will never attempt to mash a potato again.  In the same way that Brahms only wrote 4 symphonies because he could never attempt a 5th symphony that would rival the genius of Beethoven's 5th.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2012
  7. petalsandcoco

    petalsandcoco

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  8. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Rice them first, and then whip cream and butter into them.  S+P.
     
  9. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Like Kuan, for super smooth I use a ricer. However as an accompaniment for most foods I prefer mashed over pureed for the texture, and I use a masher.

    If there's some secret is regarding overworking and not overworking when it comes to beating or mashing, I don't know it. But I've definitely had potatoes which were overworked and pasty as a result (beaten or mashed by hand and whipped in a mixer as well as spuds processed in an FP) AND have also had potatoes which were whipped with a spoon or whisk to no end and forced through a tammy which tasted great. Quien sabe?

    I do believe that the timing and temp of milk (or cream) and butter makes a difference, and as it happens I make great mashed (and riced) potatoes. That doesn't mean I understand why. And... On the one hand, I hate instant potatoes, but on the other KFC gravy is quite good. Talk about ambivalence.

    BDL
     
  10. duckfat

    duckfat

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    I've always thought of pureed potatos and mashed potatos as two very different items. Mashed potatos should have some texture Vs Whipped potatos that can be quite airy.

    You need to match the spud to the technique IMO. Starch potatoes like russets (AKA I-Da-Hoe) can absorb ample cream and butter and yet still hold plenty of air when whipped Vs a lower starch or waxy Yukon-Gold that takes on an entirely different texture.

    Always cook the potatos with the skins on so they don't absorb water. After I drain them I allow them to dry a bit before peeling.

    Skip some of the butter and use Duck fat. Just don't try to serve with foie in California.

    Dave
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2012
  11. summer57

    summer57

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    I don't have a problem with instant mashed potatoes. I use instant if I don't have time to peel, steam or mash/rice them, or if it's the time of year when high-starch spuds aren't at their best or when it's new potato season. I'll also add instant mash to whole potatoes if I've accidently over-cooked them or added too much milk.
     
  12. teamfat

    teamfat

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    I also don't like instant potatoes, there is just something odd about the texture to me.  For both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners last year I put cream cheese in the mash, folks really liked that.

    mjb.
     
  13. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Your right as far as I am concerned . Years ago riced potato was served as were mashed ,as were  hashed in cream ,as were smashed,(with skins on usually red bliss # 2s)

    Each was different. Many people do however rice first then mash. Today though they just put steamed potatoes in the hobart mixer the milk or cream, butter  and seasonings and turn on to mash.
     
  14. petalsandcoco

    petalsandcoco

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    "I've always thought of pureed potatos and mashed potatos as two very different items. Mashed potatos should have some texture Vs Whipped potatos that can be quite airy"

    That is what I have have always known and it depends the dish I am making to serve it with. 

    One thing I do and maybe this may seem odd but I always heat my cream enough to melt the butter in it, whisk , then slowely add to the prepped potatoes. Chef Levesque taught me this way and I have had good success.

    Petals.
     
  15. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Couple more things:

    "Whipped," pureed and mashed are each different things. Pureed potatoes don't have much air; they are soft, smooth and silky. For whatever reasons, I associate "whipped" with chains, and don't make them anymore.

    Before mashing boiled potatoes, it's a good idea to cook the potatoes a little after draining them to allow some of the water to steam out of the boiled potatoes. After the potatoes release some steam, I add cold milk or half and half and heat it until it's hot enough to melt the butter quickly; then I introduce cold butter, and finally mash. The butter melts into the potatoes and milk as they're mashed and mixed together. I learned this from Chef Rolf from the Blue Fox and from the late, great PIerre Franey as well.

    I like to herb mashed (or pureed potatoes) using a variety of herbs separately or in combination. I especially like garlic chives.

    When making pureed (or riced potatoes), I add hot dairy to the potatoes, then cold butter. I generally use a "French whisk" (elongated pear with very thick, stiff tines) which doesn't add much air at all.

    There are frequently several right ways to do things. For instance, petals melts the butter in the dairy before incorporating. Both methods are, no doubt, equally good.

    BDL
     
  16. twyst

    twyst

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    They are fine, potatoes do not contain any gluten whatsoever.
     
  17. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    When I was coming up in the business, the first French chef I worked under always taught us that you could beat, mash, whip, etc. potatoes for quite a long time as long as you didn't add the butter or cream.  Once you added those you had to finish it off quickly or risked getting gluey potatoes.  Whether there is any basis in fact, to this I don't know but I have always followed this guideline to great success.  First off this is assuming you are a drier potato such as a russet.  I peel them, dice them and cook them in salted water.  When done I drain them and place the potatoes in the oven for about 5 minutes, with the door cracked open to dry them slightly.  Then we either ran them through a food mill, if making a large amount, or used a heavy whisk to mash them.  I used to spend 6-7 minutes mashing them with a whisk before adding cold butter.  Continued mashing until the butter was just melted and finished with hot cream.  Stirred the cream in and then gave a quick, fast whip to get a bit of air into them and fluff them up.  Doing it this way I've never had problems with dense, gluey, or starchy mashed potatoes.  Using potatoes like red skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes though you do need to be very careful about over mashing as these potatoes can go from perfect to gluey in a matter of seconds.
     
  18. french fries

    french fries

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    Thanks to everybody who responded! Interesting ideas in this thread. petalsandcoco, thank you for the links. 
    I remember hearing Robuchon explain that it was very important to add the fridge-cold butter first, and the hot boiling milk then. The reason he gave was that your mashed would then have the taste of cold butter, otherwise they have the taste of melted butter. I have always followed his directions because he is famous for his incredible puree, and I am very happy with the results and the butter taste - but honestly I have never researched this more scientifically nor made blind taste tests. 

    I also beat the potatoes alone with a wooden spatula for 5-10mn to make them smooth before adding the milk, then I switch to a whisk to whip them a bit and make them light and fluffy. 

    I prefer to use Yukon gold because I don't like the taste of the russets I find here. 
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
  19. petalsandcoco

    petalsandcoco

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    Robuchon is a master is in his own right. I have made mashed potatoes that  way to.

    I have never found the flavor profile of the butter to change. When the cream is put in the pot I add a stick of butter (room temp when added) , it slowely melts with the cream. I have noticed that the butter is incorporated well into the potato mixture. The other thing is knowing how long to mash the potatoes (depending on which type you want).

    The potatoes should always be dry/hot, foodmill, etc.

    The other important thing is that they be seasoned well.

    Then there is the matter of personal taste. It would be interesting to know whenever you may try this way FF (if you do) to know your thoughts.

    A heavy yet delicate dish to enjoy.

    Petals.
     
  20. chefedb

    chefedb

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    One thing I have learned over the years when making anything in bulk in particular with a mixer. Whenever possible add herbs and spices to a liguid first then into whatever your making. This way  it can properly be disbursed or mix into the total produce where if added dry at times forms pockets  that will make the finished product taste differen t with each taste. IE put salt and papper into the milk and butter mix when making mashed then add to potatoes.  In commercial batch cooking this is what is done.