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Mashed Potatoes Insight

Q:

What’s hot with mashed potatoes right now?

A:

I am sure your question is about the latest and newest applications. However, first let me address a pet peeve whenever someone orders mashed potatoes as a side or it is automatically included with the entrée. The potatoes need to be HOTTER! We all have fallen into the trap of thinking that because of the density of mashed potatoes they will hold their temperatures indefinitely when left on the steam table line or placed into a bowl when fixing dinner at home. That just isn’t the case. For example, refrigerated mashed potatoes, from Idaho or elsewhere, are easy to heat up in their own plastic seal containers…once. After the mashed potatoes are out of the container or left uncovered, heat escapes very rapidly. Try using a thermometer on the potatoes when they are ready to be plated up; it’s likely you’ll be surprised at the lukewarm temperature. When fixing potatoes from fresh (or as they refer to the method in foodservice, from scratch) be sure to warm up the container it goes into before serving. It’s ideal to fix the potatoes ahead of time and then put them in the oven to stay warm

Upscale mashed potatoes are making a comeback. I just saw a dish with chunks of lobster mashed served under a grilled halibut at a restaurant in Napa California recently. Other San Francisco restaurants are drizzling in a little flavored oils such as truffle or basil. Another unique touch is to add a little “crunch” on top of your mashed potatoes when serving it to a customer, such as a homemade Idaho potato chips or thinly sliced fried onions or fried cheese crisps. Instead of cheddar mashed potatoes, try some of the more unique cheeses available now and as a variation to blending in ahead of time, use shredded cheese and add in at the last minute (it will easily melt if the potatoes are still hot). I am also seeing mashed potatoes used as a layer in wraps, in sushi rolls, and wherever the potatoes can help bind a dish together. Don’t forget variations on the gravy to add a different flavor profile to the mashed. Used to be that chunks of potato in your mashed signified that they were fresh, but did you know that there are several dry Idaho potato products now (dehy) that have different sizes of potato pieces in them so when a liquid is added the final product has the terrific mouth feel of home-style potatoes, but with a convenience and economical price that’s hard to beat. Mix and match varieties in your homemade mashed by using the Idaho russet potatoes as the base and then incorporating a percentage, say 10-25%, of fingerlings, reds or yellow potatoes with the skins on. We recently showed a chain an interesting side dish of crushed fingerlings, boiled and then tossed with butter and then gently smashed and called it “smashed fingers”!

Whatever new variations that you do, remember, keep them hot to intensify the flavor to your guests and they will rave about your Idaho mashed potatoes.