Saturday, November 26, 2011

On Cheating With Food (Mashed Potatoes)

Despite the post title, I don't mean I'm cheating on Hubby with food - I mean I'm cheating on the more difficult, traditional methods of making some foods. Why? Because, despite my innate love for cooking and my respect for the Traditions of Old (and my love for fresh mashed potatoes, oh man), I also have two small kids. I don't always have enough whole potatoes sitting around to make enough mashed for the lot of us. I don't always (okay, I rarely) have the desire to pack everybody up so I can go to the store just to get a bag of potatoes (and if we're going to the store, we WON'T come home with just potatoes). However, we almost always have potato flakes around for a variety of reasons: they're easier, and they can be tossed into a bread mix to make a dense potato bread. Okay, two reasons. But they're still very valid reasons.

Mostly the first one. Ease has a LOT to do with my choices for food.

So for Thanksgiving, as I was cooking, I made a last minute decision to toss some mashed potatoes into the mix. The problem was that I had all of two potatoes left and the only stores in town that would have sold potatoes were, naturally, closed. This left me with an interesting conundrum: I wanted homestyle mashed that had the texture and flavor of "real" mashed but didn't require me to mess with only two potatoes. 

Hello, potato flakes!

So I prepared 12 servings of mashed potatoes via the directions on the box of flakes. If it matters, they're not Idahoan brand or anything, and I'm not of the impression that brand makes a lot of difference when it comes to flavor or texture. But hey, if you're super-picky and you really do prefer a certain brand of potato flakes, by all means, use them.

I prepped them on the store, as the 12 serving mixture had a "NOT RECOMMENDED" note on the microwave directions, and I didn't feel like slaughtering a massive amount of mashed potatoes in the microwave. I used 2% milk, actual butter, and kosher salt because I'm just badass like that. The results were some super-creamy, thick mashed - but they still lacked the right TEXTURE. What's that texture, you ask?

The actual pieces of potato.

And that, my dear friends, is where the magical Can 'O' New Potatoes came in.

Yes, that's right! One can of Del'Monte cubed new potatoes (not whole, yikes) got added to the mixture after being drained. Because they're already different sizes and fully cooked, they only needed to heat and soften a bit more in the mixture before serving. They didn't require anything more than the 15 seconds or so necessary to open and drain the can, and the extra maybe five minutes of warming on the store. Maybe a little extra butter, for those of us who regularly channel Paula Deen.

It was totally worth every moment. They turned out phenomenal, with the thickness of real mashed potatoes and the "potato chunk" texture that I look for in homemade mashed. Hubby told me, point-blank, "If you hadn't told me what you did, I would've thought you made this from actual whole potatoes." 

I highly recommend taking this easier, tasty route to homestyle mashed goodness, without the extra time and effort (especially if neither is an option)!

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