My husband's grandmother passed away recently, and as one of the people in the family who most loves to cook, I was allowed to rummage around her kitchen and take what I liked. It was such fun and such a gift. I came home with an ancient yet super-sturdy stainless steel potato masher with a red lucite-like handle. Itching to try it, I bought some russets and boiled them up. The masher worked like a charm, and then I realized I wasn't much in the mood for plain old mashed spuds.
Into the mix went grated Gruyere, crumbled bacon, scallions and some buttermilk. The idea of puffs was running through my mind, so I mashed (heh!) the potato mixture into a ziploc, cut off the corner and played around with griddling these as well as baking-then-broiling them. Both work well but do yield different textures and tastes. I like them both so leave the ultimate cooking method up to you, your preferences, and so forth. Yum! I can totally imagine popping these in my mouth hand over fist while sitting in a pub cheering on the home team! —em-i-lis
Test Kitchen Notes
Crisp, flavorful and addicting, em-i-lis's Cheesy Mashed Potato Puffs would be a welcome addition to any pub menu! Equally delightful with a cold draft beer or a glass of Pinot Grigio, tangy buttermilk mashed potatoes are given a flavor boost by the inclusion of gruyere cheese, bacon and scallions, then formed into little puffs that are pan-fried until golden brown. We found that extruding the mashed potatoes into a six-inch rope, then slicing them into "tater tot"-like nuggets was a tad simpler than forming rounds with our hands. One warning: Eat enough of these and you may mysteriously find yourself rooting for Manchester United! —wssmom
35 or 40 puffs
russet potatoes (a scant pound and a half), scrubbed and cut into 4-5 large chunks each
Gruyere + more for grating over the puffs as a final touch
Fill a 4-quart saucepan just over 1/2 full with water and add 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil and add the chopped potatoes. Cook ~20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender enough that you can mash them easily.
Drain and then put the potatoes into a mixing bowl. Using a potato masher, mash! When they're a nice consistency (mostly smooth but with some small chunks), add to them 1 oz of grated Gruyere, the buttermilk and white pepper. Stir gently to combine, making sure the white pepper and cheese are well incorporated.
Add the crumbled bacon and chopped scallions to this mixture. Stir to combine and spoon the whole mess into a ziploc or pastry bag fitted with the large circle tip. If using the ziploc, cut off one corner so you can pipe the potato mixture through into rounds.
Heat and oil a griddle if you prefer to fry the puffs, or heat your oven to 425 with a rack in the upper third if you're going the baked puff route.
For griddlers: when the griddle and oil are nice and hot but not smoking, pipe small rounds of mashed potato (I find it easier to pipe into your hand to ensure the round shape remains vs a snakey result) out and cook them, flipping and turning, for a few minutes until most sides are golden brown and a bit crispy. Drain on paper towels and then sprinkle with grated Gruyere and Maldon.
For bakers: lightly grease a cookie sheet or pan, and follow the above directions for piping rounds. Bake 10 minutes and then turn the broiler on low to finish the puffs off. As with the griddled puffs, sprinkle with grated cheese and Maldon.
Serve warm! If making in advance, you can stop just after putting the mixture in the ziploc and then cook them fresh, OR you can reheat/toast the cooked puffs before serving.