Chicago chef Mike Sheerin has been making the mashed potatoes at family gatherings since he was six years old. On one childhood holiday, “I had the unfortunate timing of catching my mother on the phone with one of her sisters in California,” Sheerin laughs, recounting that first mashed moment. “She was trying to mash the potatoes and talk on the phone at the same time—and this was before cordless phones.” Giving up on the effort, Mike’s mom handed him a towel, poured milk and butter in the hot potatoes, “And I went to town mashing them,” says Sheerin. “I kept pushing down the masher and lifting just enough to catch a little air to lighten them. I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing at the time, but somehow, they were pretty amazing.”
In the decades since, Sheerin has perfected his methods. We asked him, and another famed chef, Matthias Merges, to please share, because who hasn’t messed up the mashed on at least one occasion? Too wet, too dry, gluey or pasty, mashed potato fails, well, FAIL. Both chefs obliged with top tips, and a great recipe. Most crucial: Start potatoes in cold water, and don’t boil it! Both chefs say to slowly bring the temperature of the water only to 200 to 205 degrees, just below a boil. “Never let the water boil,” says Merges. “This causes the cells in the potato to burst and become watery.” Also, leaving the skin on during the simmer phase, says Merges, helps protect the potato “meat” from getting soggy and promotes more even cooking. Once cooked, placing the cooked potatoes in a warm oven to dry out the skins before peeling and mashing ensures perfect consistency. Also crucial: Be sure to warm the cream/butter/olive oil you are going to stir in before adding to the hot mashed potatoes.
In sum? “Cook them slow, mash them hot and warm the cream/butter before mixing in,” says Sheerin.
And don’t forget the gravy! Save the bones from turkey or roast chicken carcasses to make Mike Sheerin’s favorite gravy which we think is liquid gold.
- 15 Idaho potatoes
- Large pot of cold water
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 sticks butter
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Wash and rinse 15 medium sized Idaho or Yukon Gold potatoes. Place in pot, cover with water to a depth that’s 1 inch higher than the top of the potatoes. Turn heat to medium only until water begins to steam. Turn heat to medium low.
- Do not boil the water. Simmer potatoes for 2 hours or more until easily pierced with a fork, but not falling apart.
- Remove potatoes from water. Place in warm 325 degree oven for 10 minutes to dry skins.
- In a small saucepan, combine butter, cream and olive oil. Heat until quite hot. Set aside.
- Place peeled potatoes through a ricer into a large pot OR mash potatoes with an old-fashioned masher.
- Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir in hot cream/butter/olive oil mixture, in several batches at a time, working the hot cream mixture into the potatoes until fluffy.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Mike Sheerin's Poultry-bone Gravy (recipe in link in main body of story.)