When the potatoes are quite soft, drain them completely and return them to the pan over medium heat. Add the butter and cook for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring the potatoes rapidly and vigorously to help any residual water evaporate. You also want to break the potatoes up and smash them with the spoon. You can employ a fork to help, if you like, but you shouldn't need a ricer or a masher unless you want ultra-smooth potatoes. Just cook, stir, and smash.
Mashed potatoes are one of the easiest no-recipe dishes we know. It's the simplest thing in the world to make up a batch for just one person, or two, or three. And if you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner for just two, you can easily whip up mashed potatoes without making a Thanksgiving-sized pot-full. This method here also requires no masher, no ricer, and a bare minimum of equipment in general.
We actually received a question on this from reader Karen. She writes:
Since it's just my husband and me, most recipes or mixes for mashed potatoes are just way too much. How can I make mashed potatoes out of one large russet or the equivalent? Should I just adjust the ingredients down, or do I need to modify technique in any way?
Well Karen, you're in luck. Making mashed potatoes for two is even easier than making a big batch for a crowd. Here's how I do it. Take a look and add your own tips and suggestions for fluffy, creamy mashed potatoes
What You Need
2 teaspoons salt
1 large Yukon Gold potato per person (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound apiece)
1 tablespoon butter, or more as desired
1/2 cup milk or cream, or more as needed
1 ounce cream cheese (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
3-quart pot (or larger)
1. Fill a pot with water and stir in 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decide how many potatoes you want to use. (I was making enough for two people, with some leftovers, so I used about 1 1/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes.)
2. Peel the potatoes. Cut them in half, then in quarters, lengthwise. Then cut the quarters into thin strips. You can chop them finer, if you feel like it; the finer they are, going into the water, the easier they will be to mash later. Slip the potatoes into the boiling water and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are falling-apart tender.
3. Meanwhile, choose and warm your dairy. Now, this is decision time. For modest weeknight mashed potatoes, a tablespoon of butter (or a little olive oil) and 1/2 cup of milk per pound of potatoes will be plenty of dairy. It will help the potatoes be creamy and smooth, and bind everything together. But if you want a more decadent experience, then by all means, dial it up! Switch out the milk to cream, and add an ounce of cream cheese or even a dollop of sour cream. It's up to you. The more fat, the creamier they will be. But whatever you choose, warm it first, before adding to the potatoes. Warm the milk or cream in the microwave, and let any cream cheese or sour cream warm to room temperature.
4. When the potatoes are quite soft, drain them completely and return them to the pan over medium heat. Add the butter and cook for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring the potatoes rapidly and vigorously to help any residual water evaporate. You also want to break the potatoes up and smash them with the spoon. You can employ a fork to help, if you like, but you shouldn't need a ricer or a masher unless you want ultra-smooth potatoes. Just cook, stir, and smash.
5. When any remaining water has evaporated, and the potatoes are quite smashed up and smooth, it's time to add the warm milk or cream, as well as any other dairy you'd like to throw in. Pour the milk in slowly, stirring constantly. Keep stirring and cooking until the potatoes are quite hot, creamy, and smooth. Turn off the heat, season to taste with pepper and salt, and dish them up! (You can also keep them warm in the top half of a double boiler.)
• Once all the milk is incorporated you can use a heavy whisk, if you like, to break up the last chunks of potato.
OK, your turn! How do you make mashed potatoes? Do you ever make enough for just one person, or for two? Do you add chives or other herbs into a basic recipe like this? Or cheese, perhaps?
(Images: Faith Durand)