Plain old mashed potatoes are always brilliant, and it’s hard to imagine a dinner table without them. Still, every once in a while we like to change things up. But not too much. Here, a small amount of Parmesan cheese adds earthiness and nuttiness to the classic smooth creamy potatoes, and turns a traditional side into something inspired with no extra work.
Just be sure to go easy on the salt, and taste at the end. Parmesan adds a bit of saltiness to this dish.
Also, when you add the milk mixture to the crushed potatoes and stir, you will think, “Wait! That’s too much liquid!” Don’t worry. As the potatoes cook and sit they will thicken up. If you make them ahead of time you can reheat them gently over low heat, adding some more hot milk as necessary and stirring frequently.
You have several options for mashing the potatoes. You can use an old-fashioned potato masher, which will probably yield some lumps (which some of us like). You also can use a potato ricer, which looks kind of like an oversized garlic press. You put the potatoes in, press them through the fine-holed disk at the bottom, and the potatoes come out a bit like grains of rice, though they quickly turn into creamy mashed potatoes when you mix them with the remaining ingredients.
There also is a food mill, which works similarly, only you crank the potatoes through the holes on the bottom disk with a handle. This tool is also good for pureeing things like cooked tomatoes or berries, as it strains out the seeds and skins, only allowing the smooth fruit mixture to pass through.
Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese
Makes 6 servings
• Kosher salt
• 8 large Idaho or Yukon Gold potatoes (3 to 3 1/2 pounds total), peeled and halved
• 250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
• 125 ml (1/2 cup) light or heavy cream or half-and-half
• 50 ml (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
• 50 ml (1/4 cup) finely grated Parmesan cheese
• Ground black pepper
Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt, return to a boil, then add the potatoes. The water should cover the potatoes by at least 5 cm (2-inches.) Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes or so, partially covered, until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a knife.
Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Set the pot over medium-low heat. Toss the potatoes in the hot pan occasionally for 3 minutes or so until the moisture is all gone and the potatoes have begun to dry out (but not to brown). Remove the pan from the heat and put the potatoes through a ricer or a food mill, or mash with a potato masher until they are smooth, or as smooth as you like them.
Meanwhile, heat the milk and the cream together in a microwave safe bowl or pitcher for about 1 minute, or in a small saucepan on the stovetop, until hot. Add the hot milk and cream mixture to the potatoes along with the butter and stir with a wooden spoon or a whisk until well combined. Blend in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, and stir over medium-low heat until everything is hot and well blended.