As the result of a conversation with food scientist Shirley Corriher, cookbook author Diane Morgan happened upon a clever, very easy way to make mashed potatoes taste more buttery (without adding any more butter). As she told me, "When making mashed potatoes, it is typical to see a recipe suggesting that the milk and butter be heated together, simmering the milk and at the same time melting the butter. That mixture gets added to the just-mashed, cooked potatoes. Easy enough, right? However, using the same quantity of milk and butter, but heating them separately and adding the melted butter first to the mashed potatoes, you end up with a butterier tasting potato dish. The fat absorbs into the cells of the potato, which have swelled and pulled apart from one another. Then, the milk loosens and flavors the potatoes." Adapted slightly from Diane Morgan. —Genius Recipes
Peel the potatoes and rinse them under cold water. Cut each into quarters and place in a 3- to 4-quart sauce pan. Cover with cold water, partially cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil. Uncover, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and reduce the heat so that the water boils gently. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the milk to just below a simmer. In a separate pan, melt the butter. (Alternatively, use a microwave to warm the milk and melt the butter in separate containers.)
Drain the potatoes and return them to the warm pan over low heat for 1 minute to evaporate any excess water. Use a potato masher, ricer, or food mill to mash the potatoes. Stir the butter into the potatoes. Then add the milk, a little at a time, until the potatoes are as soft and moist as you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or keep warm in the top of a double boiler for up to an hour, or cover and rewarm in a microwave oven.
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