When it comes to mashed potatoes, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. Love meaning I love them. Hate meaning peeling them. For several years growing up somehow I ended up in charge of the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes along with my aunt. And every year, especially that first one, I was excited. My aunt has a way of being enthusiastic about everything, in a way that can be contagious. And besides, I had a responsibility on Thanksgiving! And it was for a food I actually liked!
And then the next day, that charm would fade pretty quickly when we started peeling the potatoes. We would absolutely fill the sink with potato peelings and my hands would turn to raisins. And then it would take forever for our water to boil and the potatoes to get fork tender and I would lose patience somewhere around the time Santa Claus came riding into Herald Square.
As a result I would usually have homemade mashed potatoes about once a year. And yes, they were delicious with all that milk and butter and salt and pepper. But I never saw them worth the trouble at any other time of year.
Well, turns out, they are totally worth the trouble. Because when you are making potatoes for two, you only need two to three potatoes which is totally manageable. And even doubling that for a family of four isn’t all that bad. Say it takes about one minute to peel each potato. We’re talking 2-3 minutes of peeling potatoes here, 8 maximum. (It also turns out that using an electric mixer to mash potatoes is way easier and quicker than actually mashing them.)
It also turns out that potatoes don’t just have to contain butter and milk (and sometimes cheese). Basil should be right up there on your list, paired with half and half and Parmesan cheese of course. These potatoes are creamy and rich, but with the bright basil flavor they don’t feel too heavy. They are a perfect use for your budding herb garden. (I can’t even tell you how excited I am about having one this year. Basil and thyme and rosemary right outside my door! I can’t get over it.)
And I’m glad I got over my potato block, because now I have quite the bag left over and I plan on making mashed potatoes about three times in the next week, because really irritating tasks in small quantities is not bad at all, especially when it results in potatoes like these.
Potato Basil Puree
from Ina Garten
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
2 lbs. large Yukon Gold potatoes (or white potatoes), peeled and quartered
1 cup half and half
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. To the side, fill a small bowl with ice water.
2. Add the the basil leaves to the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. Remove and immediately plunge the basil leaves into the ice water. When they are cooled, drain the basil leaves and set aside.
3. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender (and really they should fall apart easily when poked with a fork).
4. While the potatoes are cooking, combine the half and half and Parmesan cheese in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the cream is simmering and the cheese is melted.
5. When the potatoes are extremely tender, drain them. Then return them to the pot and set aside.
6. Place the basil in a food processor. Add the warm cream and then process until the mixture is smooth.
7. With a handheld electric mixer, beat the potatoes until broken apart. Add the cream mixture, salt, and pepper and beat until very smooth. If the potatoes need to be reheated, return the pot to a low heat. Cover the pot and allow the potatoes to cook until warm, stirring occasionally. Serve potatoes hot, sprinkled with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.