I really cannot type the word potato without thinking of Dan Qualye. For those of you born after the Reagan years, he was the Vice President for Bush I (aka Old 41 or George Herbert Walker Bush). He was doing a school visit and conducting a spelling bee type contest for elementary school kids when he suggested that a child needed to add an E to the end of potato. Now, in his defense the cue card in his hand apparently had a typo but let me tell you, it did nothing to improve his intellectual gravitas.
Meanwhile back here at dinner we need a starch to go along with all of the roast chicken, grilled meat and pot roast. I grew up with baked potatoes, and it wasn’t until I was older that I discovered the joys of a good mashed potato. As it climbed in popularity in my repertoire I set out to perfect this deceptively tricky dish.
There are two aspects you want to get right. One is the mouth feel of the potatoes. They should be moist, not sticky or clumped. The second is a consistent flavor profile. There is nothing worse that a dish that tastes like garlic, only when you get a chunk of garlic. Fortunately the answer to both problems lies in the use and introduction of fat. By steeping the aromatics in the fat we get an even distribution of the flavor compounds. By adding the fat to the potatoes before adding other liquids (this is important) we allow the fat to bind with the starches and prevent any clumping or lump formation in addition to spreading the flavors evenly.