This $3 Pantry Staple Is a Childhood Favorite — And Also an Achievement in Science
One of them is as surprising to me as it is to anyone who knows me. I’m a professional food stylist and recipe developer living in New York, but what do I come back to for a dinner that fills both my stomach and soul? Instant mashed potatoes.
What’s So Great About Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes?
I don’t know how it feels to have five children under 10 years old, and probably never will, but my mom does, and instant mashed potatoes were her knight in shining armor (when my dad was at work … as a professional chef!). Instant mashed potatoes are russet potatoes that have been cooked, mashed, and dehydrated. They’re magical flakes that are light, shelf-stable, and extremely affordable. They’re a busy cook’s dinnertime crutch. They’re an achievement in science.
To turn a box of Idahoan — my favorite and the most iconic brand — into a fluffy pot of steamy mashed potatoes, all you need to do is boil some water, salt, and butter together. Once it’s boiling, add milk, stir in the measured amount of potato flakes, and within seconds they rehydrate into, well, dinner.
What’s the Best Way to Use Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes?
Instant mashed potatoes are a smooth, pillowy delight. They’re perfect on their own, but are also easily customizable. Mix in goat cheese, chopped herbs, garlic confit, chopped bacon, or anything else that would improve your life. If you’re like my mom, you’ll serve them alongside Shake ‘N Bake chicken drumsticks, which I also highly recommend.
In my work as a food stylist, I’m acquainted with instant mashed potatoes as a professional tool. The flakes are lightweight and easy to lug around in my food stylist’s kit and when they’re mixed with cold water, they’re a cheap, solid putty that’s useful to fill spaces where product that is more expensive and usually limited in quantity wouldn’t be seen anyway. Two examples: a big bowl “filled” with a gorgeous salad, an opaque vessel “filled” with smoothie. I also use little knobs of potato putty to prop up layers of a burger or sandwich from the back, or to angle something on a plate or surface that needs to catch the light.
But don’t worry — I still eat them for dinner like most people would. Because I live in New York, I’m lucky to have seemingly every type of food ever invented available to me at almost any time. But when I cook for myself at home and want a taste of nostalgia, I go straight for the brown box of dehydrated potato flakes. It’s hard to know if I love instant mashed potatoes because I grew up with them, or because they’re actually good. There are still many mysteries in the field of science, and this may remain one of them.
Buy: Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes, $2.98 for ounces at Walmart
Which groceries are giving you a serving of nostalgia? Tell us in the comments below.