Mad About Mashes - FineCooking.com

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Mad About Mashes

By Arthur Potts Dawson
from Fine Cooking #125, pp. 56-58

Americans might rightfully think that they have a monopoly on mashed vegetables, potatoes being the quintessential partner for meatloaf or turkey and gravy. But we Brits also make mash, as we call it, and famously serve it alongside sausages in "bangers and mash," a dish that's practically a national treasure and which pairs really well with a pint.

But mashes are not just for the pub; many high-end restaurants have them on the menu these days, too. And why not? A vegetable mash-call it a purée if you want to sound posh-is a brilliant way to add flavor, texture, and even a bit of color to the plate. (And it doesn't hurt that it's relatively inexpensive to make.)

In the following recipes, I share my method for making buttery mashed potatoes (delicious with that turkey) and include easy but exciting flavor variations, such as shallot and saffron (fantastic paired with shellfish) and rosemary and garlic, which is my favorite mash of all time.

I've also included recipes for mashes made from other root vegetables, pairing carrot with orange and mint for an aromatic and brightly colored dish, parsnip with honey and mustard for a mash that's terrific with pork, and celery root and rutabaga for a pleasingly earthy side.

All of my mash recipes can be easily multiplied, but I purposely kept the recipe yield small to encourage you to make mashes throughout the year, serving them with lamb, chicken, fish, beef-even bangers.

Recipes

Classic Potato Mash Carrot Mash with Orange and Mint  
Classic Potato Mash   Carrot Mash with Orange and Mint    

 

Celery Root and Rutabaga Mash Parsnip Mash with Dijon and Honey  
Celery Root and Rutabaga Mash   Parsnip Mash with Dijon and Honey    

 

Mash Matters
Regardless of which vegetables you use or whether they're being mashed by hand or machine, follow these tips for the best results:

  • Cut the vegetables into similarly sized and shaped pieces so they cook at the same rate.
  • Be brave with salt. Season the cooking water well to bring out the flavor of the veg and then, after mashing and mixing, season with salt again.
  • Cook the veg until very tender but not falling apart. Too little time on the heat and the mash may contain undercooked lumps; too much and it can take on a grainy texture.
  • Prick the vegetable with a fork or a skewer, not a knife, to test for tenderness. A knife can too easily slide into a vegetable that's still undercooked.
  • Drain well and let the moisture steam off. Excess liquid will dilute the flavor and make the mash watery. Some cooks return the veg to the pot to dry it, but I don't find that necessary.
  • Warm the milk and butter in the pot the vegetable cooked in. Some recipes have you do this in a separate pan, but this trick, which my grandma taught me, dirties one fewer pot.
  • Try stirring with a whisk after mashing for a lighter and smoother mash.
  • Serve the mash right away. If that's not possible, keep it warm in a double boiler. Or take it off the heat and then very gently reheat for serving.

Refined or rustic: you choose
One great thing about mashes is that you can make them the texture you like. For instance, the Englishman in me likes my mashes a bit on the lumpy side, which is how I grew up eating them. However, the French-trained chef in me prefers them to be perfectly smooth. I suggest you do as I do and choose the texture of your mash based on the style of the meal you're cooking.To make a rustic mash, all you need is a hand-held masher and a little muscle. Potatoes can get pretty smooth with this tool, but the more fibrous root vegetables will have a less cohesive texture, with tender bits of veg visible.

To make potatoes perfectly smooth, put them through a ricer or food mill. For more fibrous roots like carrot, celery root, and rutabaga, however, you'll want to use a food processor, which works like a charm to make them silky smooth and light. Unlike potatoes, these vegetables won't become gluey when overprocessed because they contain much less starch.

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