Published November 1, 2004.
When there's no gravy and the potatoes have to stand on their own, lots of home cooks "smash" them. But good smashed potatoes are hard to find.
Running the gamut from lean and mean to dangerously close to mashed (no skin, no texture, no oomph), smashed potatoes suffer from an identity crisis.
Bold flavors and rustic, chunky texture give smashed potatoes the brawn to stand on their own, whether served with a grilled steak or a roast chicken. We were after chunks of potato textured with skins and bound by rich, creamy puree.
Red Bliss potatoes were obvious selects for smashing. Their compact structure held up well under pressure, maintaining its integrity. The thin skins were pleasantly tender and paired nicely with the chunky potatoes. Clearly, this dish was meant for moist, low-starch potatoes. Cooked whole in salted water with a bay leaf, the potatoes became lightly seasoned while also retaining their naturally creamy texture, as less potato surface was exposed to the water.
A plain old wooden spoon was just the thing for smashing, and, cooked just right, the spuds burst apart, splitting the skins when they broke. This was even easier once the potatoes had dried for a few minutes so that their skins were no longer slippery.
Wanting a tangy yet creamy substance that would bind the potatoes in terms of both flavor and texture, we combined 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 4 tablespoons of melted butter and some reserved potato cooking water, and the mixture was added to the quickly drying smash, bringing it to a unified and creamy consistency. Just thick enough to be scooped up with a fork, these potatoes were thinner in terms of texture but not flavor.
Seasoned with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a sprinkling of chopped chives to boot for bright flavor and color, the potatoes had become a quick, no-fuss side dish to complement any casual dinner.list of recipes