I get the sense that I was fed a lot when I was a baby.
Which would explain my full and healthy round cheeks. I was a chubby little tot, wasn’t I? And that hair…
For the first two years of my life I lived in Peru and was tended to by my mom, my grandma, and my nanny. I don’t have many recollections of actually living there but my caretakers always feel compelled to tell me about the times I would run around the house yelling, “bashura, bashura,” in inextricable excited fashion, announcing the arrival of the garbage man each week. Or, the times when I would sneak around and explore my grandpa’s little convenience store out front, sit on the ground and line up all the toys in front of me, leaving the shelves bare. My grandma especially, vehemently attests to my stubborn sleeping patterns, or lack thereof. She affirms that I would pretend to be asleep in their arms, after hours of cradling and shushing, and none sooner after they laid me down and tip-toed out, I would poke my head up and grin, looking refreshed and ready to play.
I really have no clue what they’re talking about.
Imagined stories of my ninja sleeping tactics aside, what I do seem to remember is the food being offered to me. Everything I ate was made from scratch — vegetable soups, breakfast porridge, fruit puddings — daily with love. For me, it’s the soft and incredibly pure-tasting texture of the purees, potato; carrot; mazamorra, a dark plum-colored pudding made from purple corn, that remain in the forefront.
Maybe it’s from the strong pull of those recollections that I find a dish like mashed potatoes to be so incredibly transporting and fulfilling. Here, I adopted my grandma’s original creamy mashed potato recipe but tweaked it ever so slightly, only changing the type of potato used, and glammed it up a smidge by adding a pat of compound butter right on top. This is my favorite method for making velvety-smooth spuds; it’s super luscious and the ultimate in comfort food.
Whip this up as a complimenting side to any of your most delicious home-cooked meals and I’m sure you will find yourself shifted to an earlier place in time, one filled with the familiar coziness and warmth of moments past.
Creamy mashed potatoes with compound butter
This is an updated version of my grandma’s traditional mashed potatoes, wherein I use luscious Yukon Gold’s instead of red and opt to dollop a ration of herb butter as a finish. However, that’s where the differences end since we’re both believers in creamy mashed potatoes as opposed to chunky varieties. She uses a potato ricer and I use a food mill but they both offer a favorably smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture that I happen to love. With enough elbow grease you’d be able to churn out a lump-free mash using other means but I highly recommend investing in an old-school food mill; they are relatively inexpensive and their uses run the gamut from soups to purees to yes, you guessed it: taters.
Serves 2-4 people as a side dish
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 smallish to medium-sized ones), scrubbed clean and chopped into quarters
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup evaporated milk or whole milk, warmed slightly
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fill a medium-sized pot with cold water and dump the chopped potatoes inside, cover, and put over medium-high heat. As soon as the water starts to come to a gentle boil, add a dash of salt to the water, stir and set the lid aside. Let the potatoes cook until they’re fork tender, about 20-25 minutes. Strain over the sink.
In another medium-sized pot, melt the unsalted butter and fry the garlic until fragrant, about a couple minutes. Then, add the warmed milk, salt and pepper, and stir. If you’re using a food mill (ideal!), process the potatoes, skin and all — the grate will separate the skin from the mash — right over the pot of buttery milk garlic elixir. If you’re using an immersion blender, regular potato masher, or even just a large fork, peel the potatoes first and then dump them into the pot and smash and whir to your daily aggression’s content. Blend well and give it a taste, adding more salt and pepper if desired, or if you’re feeling devilish, a smudge more butter.