How to nail creamy, restaurant-style mashed potato
Josh Pelham reveals the secret to perfectly creamy, restaurant-style mashed potatoes.
Baked, fried, caked or crispy - there's a spud recipe to suit every taste and occasion. But you can't beat a classic, and when it comes to potatoes, a smooth and buttery mash is about as good as it gets.
So, whether you’re whipping up a sumptuous side for your iso Sunday roast, or you want to put an irresistibly creamy lid on your shepherd’s pie, here are RACV Cape Schanck Resort executive chef Josh Pelham’s top tips for making restaurant-style mashed potatoes at home.
How to make creamy, restaurant-style mashed potato
First things first: choosing the right spud
When it comes to mashed spuds, there is such thing as a perfect potato. For a mash made in heaven, Josh says, the royal blue (aka blue moon) is king.
“They are a super-delicious, sweet-fleshed, waxy potato with bluey-purply skin,” he says. “My second preference is a desiree.”
These two varieties have lower water and sugar content and more starch than the average spud, Josh explains, which is what makes them ideal for mashing.
To boil or not to boil
If you’re committed to restaurant-worthy mash, Josh says the trick is to roast the potatoes first. This helps to get rid of water, which is the enemy of fluffy mash.
“You want to draw out all the moisture so the flesh becomes light and fluffy,” Josh explains. “For the ultimate mash, try piercing and baking them whole, in the skins, on rock salt. Once they’re cooked – which takes about 45 minutes – scoop out the flesh and push it through a mouli [a metal instrument with a perforated base] then top it up with lashings of butter and milk.”
The cheat’s method (or the midweek, time-is-of-the-essence option)
Pre-roasting potatoes might be all well and good on a weekend, but when you’re trying to whip up a quick Wednesday-night dinner? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Never fear, Josh says. You can have almost restaurant-style potatoes on the table in under 20 minutes using the cheat’s method.
“Just peel, dice, boil and mash,” he says. “Boiling draws out some of the starchiness so when they’ve finished cooking it’s really important to let them steam and dry off.”
To take this midweek wonder to, as MasterChef would put it, the next level, instead of your trusty potato masher try pushing the cooked spuds through a fine-mesh sieve instead. This will help you get that perfectly lump-free texture.
Is there an ideal butter-to-spud ratio?
How much butter to add to your mashed potato depends on one thing, Josh says: how healthy you are.
“In the restaurant I worked at previously, we used to add butter until the potato can take no more and it splits, then we’d add a touch of milk to help it emulsify. It ended up being nearly 50 per cent butter!”
For home potato heads, Josh says a ratio of 25 per cent butter, 25 per cent milk and 50 per cent potato should do the trick. Be sure to warm the butter and/or milk first so that it absorbs better into the mash.
“If you’re wanting to keep it a little lighter, you can use olive oil instead of butter,” he says. “You still get that beautifully rich fresh texture as well as a lovely herbaciousness from the olive oil.”
What about condiments?
Butter and milk are the mainstays of mashed potato, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix things up a little. “Mustard is quite nice,” Josh says. “So are fresh herbs.”
But if you want to really up the potato ante, Josh says to add a little burnt butter. “It adds a lovely nutty flavour.”
Should you add cheese to your mash?
Whether you love cheese or you’ve slightly overcooked the potatoes and need something to bind them and make them less slushy, fromage is always a good idea. “There is a famous French mashed potato recipe called pommes aligot that uses whipped tots and melted tomme cheese,” Josh says. “It becomes super silky and stringy.”
How can you tell when the potatoes are ready for mashing?
Overboil your potatoes and they’ll end up a mushy, watery mess. Undercook them and they’ll still be a little too firm to whip up. For fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth mash, your potatoes need to be just right.
“There should be no resistance,” Josh says. “Using a skewer, sharp knife or even your finger - if you can push the flesh in and it’s nice and soft, there’s no residual tension there, they’re ready.”
What should I do with the leftover potato skins?
Ever felt bad about binning all that peel? This next tip is a real gourmet gamechanger. “Just deep-fry the skins and serve them with chilli and sour cream,” Josh says. “Delicious.”
They’re just like French fries, minus the food waste.
Favourite dish to serve with mashed potato?
“You can’t go past mashed potato with sausages, peas and onion gravy,” Josh says. “It’s a classic for a reason.”
Josh Pelham’s perfect mashed potato
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 45 to 60 minutes | Serves 4
- 600 to 800 grams royal blue potatoes (also known as blue moon)
- 150 grams salted butter
- 75 millilitres milk
- 1 kilogram rock salt (for baking)
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Spread the rock salt over your baking tray.
- Wash and pierce the potatoes.
- Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until fully cooked.
- In a small pot, warm and melt the butter and milk together.
- Remove the flesh from the cooked potatoes by scooping the flesh from the skins with a spoon.
- Pass the hot flesh through a potato mouli or a fine sieve.
- Slowly add the milk and butter to your desired consistency.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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