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I tried Ina Garten's recipe for flavorful mashed potatoes, and I'll always use her secret ingredient from now on

ina gartens face in a circle above a pile of mashed potatoes on a plate
Ina Garten's creamy mashed potatoes use lemon zest.
  • I tried Ina Garten's simple recipe for mashed potatoes, and I loved the secret ingredient. 
  • In addition to Yukon Gold potatoes, butter, and milk, the ingredient list includes lemon zest.
  • I loved how fresh the lemon made everything taste, but next time I'll probably use a little less. 
I've tried just about every trick to upgrade my spuds, but I found a super simple one from Ina Garten I hadn't thought of.
Ina Garten
Ina Garten is known for using fresh herbs, spices, and flavorings in her recipes.

From Yukon Gold vs. russet to ricing vs. mashing, I've tested many ways to make mashed potatoes even more amazing. 

Then I came across Garten's unique spin on the side dish.

I've added garlic or herbs to my potatoes to amp up the flavor before. But the "Barefoot Contessa" star adds a surprising ingredient I haven't thought of before: lemon.

Garten's recipe uses a few simple ingredients, including Yukon Gold potatoes.
ingredients for ina garten lemon mashed potatoes on a cutting board
Yukon Gold and russet are both used in mashed potatoes.

The recipe has just six ingredients: Yukon Gold potatoes, unsalted butter, whole milk, salt, pepper, and lemon zest.

As written, it serves four to six people, so I cut all of the measurements in half for my household of two.

I was interested in Garten's choice of potato for this recipe. Some mashed potatoes call for russet, others call for Yukon Gold, and others still include a combination of both.

Russet potatoes have a higher starch content, which makes for lighter, fluffier potatoes. Yukon Golds have a medium starch content, which makes for denser, creamier potatoes with a natural buttery flavor. 

I was excited about the prospect of adding lemon zest.
a zester, a lemon, and a plate of lemon zest on a wooden countertop
Creamy mashed potatoes could use a little acidity.

I figured with all of the butter in this recipe, plus the creamy Yukon Gold potatoes, the lemon zest would be pretty handy in balancing the richer flavors.

The cooking method was pretty standard.
peeled, diced potatoes in water in a pot
I started by boiling my potatoes.

The cooking directions were straightforward and similar to many other recipes I've made.

I started by peeling and cutting the potatoes into about 1 1/2-inch chunks.

I placed them in a pot and covered them with cold water and salt before bringing everything to a boil. Once boiling, I cooked them for 20 minutes until they were soft enough to pierce easily with a fork.

I had to improvise one of the steps.
potatoes going through a ricer into a big bowl
I used a ricer to mash the potatoes.

Garten calls for a food mill to puree the potatoes. But I don't have one, so I used my trusty ricer for that step. 

Garten warms the milk to avoid gummy spuds.
milk heating in a silver pot on a stove
Cold milk can alter the texture of warm potatoes.

Just before the potatoes were done cooking, I put 1/2 cup of whole milk in a small pot to simmer on the stove.

By using warm milk instead of cold, the potatoes can absorb the liquid better, which evidently keeps them from becoming too gummy.

There is a lot of butter involved.
cubed butter on a white kitchen plate
The recipe called for unsalted butter.

While the potatoes were cooking, I cut a full stick of butter into 1/2-inch pieces and kept them in the fridge.

It's important to keep the butter cold.
chunks of butter in riced potatoes in a bowl
As opposed to the milk, the butter goes in cold.

Unlike the milk, the butter was meant to be whisked into the potatoes while it was still very cold and fresh from the fridge.

Had I warmed up the butter like the milk, it might have separated.

The butter really made a difference in the texture of the potatoes.
plate of butter being poured into a bowl of mashed potatoes
I added the butter in slowly.

After ricing the potatoes, I started whisking in a little bit of butter at a time.

It was impressive to watch how quickly the potatoes became silky and creamy even before I started pouring in the warm milk.

The potatoes looked incredibly creamy.
milk being pouring into a pot of mashed potatoes
I didn't have to add all the milk.

Once the full stick of butter was incorporated, the instructions said to pour in just enough milk to make the potatoes "creamy but still thick." 

Ultimately, I only needed about 1/4 of the milk to reach my desired consistency before stirring in the salt and pepper. 

It was soon time to add the star ingredient to the potatoes.
lemon zest sitting in the middle of a pile of mashed potatoes in a mixing bowl
I added the salt, pepper, and lemon last.

Once the salt and pepper were thoroughly mixed into the potatoes, I whisked in the zest of one lemon.

These mashed potatoes had an incredibly silky-soft texture.
whipped mashed potatoes in a big bowl
I was surprised at how quickly everything came together.

Unsurprisingly, the full stick of butter and warm milk turned the potatoes into a silky-smooth, buttery-soft pile of fluff on my plate.

They were ultra-creamy without being soupy, and they were still able to hold their shape and form peaks when I spooned them into a dish.

These potatoes had an amazing texture that was both light and decadent at the same time.

The lemon was an unexpected but delightful addition.
a pile of mashed potatoes on a white plate
Lemon adds a nice kick of acidity.

Including salt, fat, acid, and heat in a recipe has become a common adage, so I couldn't believe I'd never thought to add lemon to my mashed potatoes before.

Mashed potatoes always include plenty of salt and fat from the butter or heavy cream, and there's a hint of heat when you add black pepper. 

But the lemon zest adds just enough acidity to cut through all of the rich textures and flavors, adding a nice brightness and freshness to help balance out the heavier ingredients.

There are a few changes I'd make next time, but lemon is a must-add ingredient for mashed potatoes.
spoon with mashed potatoes over a plate with mashed potatoes
I'll definitely be keeping lemon in my mashed potatoes.

I loved the taste and texture of Garten's mashed potatoes. They were somehow rich and creamy and light and vibrant thanks to the balance of flavors.

Although I loved the addition of lemon, I'd cut back slightly and use the zest of about 1/2 to 3/4 of a lemon for a slightly more subtle brightness. I also think some fresh herbs, like chives or parsley, would complement the lemon and make the potatoes even better.

All in all, I'll be keeping a lemon handy anytime I want to make mashed potatoes thanks to Garten's recipe.

Read the original article on Insider

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