There are as many ways to flavour mashed potatoes as there are cooks. These are my gold standard. They’re simple, with a twist: brown butter. You won’t believe how much flavour is locked into a stick of butter, but you will believe these are the best mashed spuds you’ve ever had.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
2 pounds of unpeeled potatoes, about 4 large
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup of milk
a few pinches of nutmeg
a sprinkle or two sea salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
Cut the potatoes into large chunks and steam, boil or microwave them until they’re tender. Drain well.
Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and begin heating and melting it.
Keep a close eye on it as it foams. Swirl it gently, watching the colour. When it turns golden brown and releases the aroma of toasting nuts, immediately pour it into a bowl to lower its temperature and stop it from browning further.
Once the potatoes are tender, mash in the brown butter, milk, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Taste and season a bit more if needed. Then watch the bowl empty!
Because butter contains as much as 20 percent water, it will begin to steam and foam. Once the water has evaporated, the foam will subside, and the butter’s temperature will begin to rise past the boiling point of water. The milk fat solids that are 1 or 2 percent of the butter will then begin to brown.
You can mash any potato, but your best bets are the low-moisture, high-starch varieties that are also the best for baking. My favourite is the Yukon Gold. Its creamy texture and golden colour are perfect with the brown butter. You can peel the potatoes if you prefer but you’ll lose some rustic flavour and some nutrients if you do. Your choice! Sliced green onions, chives and chopped parsley add both flavour and colour. French chefs always add a pinch of elegant nutmeg to their potato purées. It adds a pleasing mysterious flavour but feel free to leave it out.