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Mashed To Perfection

One of the most popular dishes during cold weather months: mashed potatoes. But if you think it's hard, you'll get some help from The Early Show's resident chef, Bobby Flay, who has an easy recipe for "perfect" mashed potatoes. He'll show you how on Thursday.

Flay likes to use Idaho potatoes for his mashed potatoes. He also believes in using a food mill for achieving the smoothest mashed potatoes.

He'll also have a potato ricer on hand. A potato ricer, also, is great for producing smooth mashed potatoes, but it can be cumbersome to use if you want to make a lot of mashed potatoes. The other advantage of a food mill is that it can be used for other ingredients, such as tomatoes, so if you're limited on space, buy a food mill.

A food mill earns its place in a well-equipped kitchen by providing far more control when precise food texture is desirable than do food processors, blenders, or mixers.

A potato ricer works just like a citrus press and a garlic press. It is much bigger, of course, because you need a lot of leverage to force a boiled potato through the tiny holes! In this extrusion, just the right quantity of the potato's starch granules, soft and swollen from cooking, are ruptured. Too few ruptured starches and the mashed potatoes are lumpy and grainy. Too many ruptured starch granules, and potatoes turn gluey (as knows anyone who has made the mistake of trying to "mash" potatoes in a food processor).

Both of these kitchen tools are easier for many folks to use instead of a traditional potato masher (which requires a lot of elbow grease).

In the United States, until the late 19th century, potatoes were considered mainly as food for animals. The potato is a perennial tuber of the Solanaceae (or nightshade) family, which is one of the most widely used vegetables in Europe and North and South America. There are six other species of Solanum of minor importance. There are thousands of varieties of potato in cultivation.

The potato is unrelated to the sweet potato. In the United States, it is sometimes referred to as the "Irish potato" to distinguish it.

If you're watching your waistline, don't be scared off. The potato is a healthy food choice, a great source of fiber, rich in vitamin C, and an excellent source of potassium. Potatoes rank highest among the top-20-selling fruits and vegetables when it comes to potassium.

A typical potato is only 100 calories and does not contain any fat, sodium or cholesterol. This means that potatoes aren't just good; they're good for you. Fiber promotes good digestion and helps manage your body weight, plus it may help decrease your risk of colon cancer and heart disease. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your body's cells. It also helps keep your gums healthy and can protect your body from infection by keeping your immune system healthy. And foods that are a good source of potassium and low in sodium - such as potatoes - may reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Finally, mashed potatoes don't have to be bland. Flay has a couple of variations on the traditional mashed potatoes, including a basil pesto recipe.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 lbs Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 25-30 minutes.
  2. Place the milk and cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.
    Drain the potatoes well, return them to the pot and place back on the burner over low heat to dry out the potatoes and get out any additional water. Process them, in batches, through a ricer set over a large bowl. Stir in the warm milk/cream mixture and the butter and season well with salt and pepper. Keep warm in a covered bowl set over a simmering pot of water.
Basil Pesto

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until emulsified. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and pulse 3-4 times until combined.
  2. Drain the potatoes well, return them to the pot and place back on the burner over low heat to dry out the potatoes and get out any additional water. Process them, in batches, through a ricer set over a large bowl. Stir in the warm milk/cream mixture and the butter until combined and fold in the basil pesto. Keep warm in a covered bowl set over a simmering pot of water.
Sour Cream-Chive

Ingredients:
1 perfect mashed potato recipe
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives

Method:
Drain the potatoes well, return them to the pot and place back on the burner over low heat to dry out the potatoes and get out any additional water. Process them, in batches, through a ricer set over a large bowl. Stir in the warm milk/cream mixture and the butter until combined and fold in sour cream and chives. Keep warm in a covered bowl set over a simmering pot of water.

Wild Mushroom & White Truffle Mashed Potato Gratin

Ingredients:
1 perfect mashed potato recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 lb wild mushrooms, coarsely chopped
½ cup grated Romano cheese
White truffle oil

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add the shallots, and continue cooking until the mushrooms are golden brown and all of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.
  2. Drain the potatoes well, return them to the pot and place back on the burner over low heat to dry out the potatoes and get out any additional water. Process them, in batches, through a ricer set over a large bowl. Stir in the warm milk/cream mixture and the butter until combined and fold in the mushrooms. Scrape the mixture evenly into a buttered 9-inch baking dish and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is golden brown and forms a crust. Remove from the oven and drizzle with a few tablespoons of truffle oil. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted Garlic & Parmesan

Ingredients:
1 perfect mashed potato recipe
1 head of roasted garlic (see below), mashed to a paste, by hand or in a food processor
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Drain the potatoes well, return them to the pot and place back on the burner and stir, over low heat. to dry out the potatoes and get out any additional water. Process them, in batches, through a ricer set over a large bowl. Stir in the warm milk/cream mixture and the butter until combined and fold in the mushrooms. Stir in the roasted garlic and parmesan cheese.

To roast garlic: slice a head of garlic in half crosswise, drizzle each half with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly in foil, place in 375-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until soft. Let cool for 5 minutes and squeeze the cloves out into a bowl.

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