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Well, here’s the thing: I really can’t give you the exact recipe for perfect mashed potatoes, but I can tell you all the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years so that you can make your very own mashed potatoes that you will deem perfect.

The only thing I stand by when making mashed potatoes is this: MASHED POTATOES SHOULD NEVER COME FROM A BOX!!! That is an absolute rule with me, and I never bend. I have never eaten potato flakes/potato pearls and been duped into thinking they are a) real or b) good. Oh, how I struggled my freshman year of college when that was all the cafeteria served!! But listen, if you like potato pearls, or potato flakes, that’s okay. We’re still cool.

But, you know, maybe you never make the real thing because you’ve only ever had a cruddy potato peeler. Here’s my solution: an Oxo Good Grips potato peeler. They cost about 8 bucks, but will be making you a happy potato/apple/vegetable peeler for years and years. Mine has lasted over ten years (which is more than I can say for some other things in my life).

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(Is it just me, or does my son wear this shirt an awful lot in these pictures?)

This will not be my typical recipe, because I’ll be mostly throwing out ideas and suggestions. So here we go, let’s get started.

grocery items you will need:

potatoes, at least one large for each person that will be at the table (There are countless things you can do with leftover potatoes, so I say the more the better). You can use russet potatoes or Yukon Gold (pictured)
kosher salt
milk
butter
other stuff, if you want, such as buttermilk, sour cream, or cream cheese
pepper

1. Peel potatoes (or don’t, it’s up to you. But if you do leave the skins on for your mashed potatoes, make sure you always cut the potatoes before throwing them in the pot. Unpeeled potatoes boiled whole will result in gluey mashed potatoes).

2. Slice the potatoes 1/2 inch thick. Rinse, and place in a large pot. Cover potatoes with cold water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. When water comes to a boil, add in a tablespoon of salt (or less if you’re only doing a couple of potatoes). Boil potatoes until tender and will split down the center when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.

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3. Drain potatoes in a colander, and press through a ricer (this is a wonderful contraption. You can buy a cheap one that will last about 20 batches of mashed potatoes at Target, or you can invest in a gorgeous one at Williams Sonoma that will last longer).

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4. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and add in melted butter and milk. Depending on how many potatoes you make, this may be anywhere from 4-12 tablespoons of butter, and up to a cup of milk. Be very careful adding the milk, though. Adding too much can really ruin the potatoes, so start small, adding about a 1/2 a cup at first, and then gradually adding more until you achieve the consistency you want. Whisk the potatoes until light and fluffy. Then taste. If they are too dry, add a little milk, or cream. If they aren’t flavorful enough, you may want to add more butter, or more salt or pepper. This may be a time to get crazy and toss in some sour cream or buttermilk or cream cheese. For Thanksgiving, a little extra richness is what you’re going for, so have fun and be creative.

5. Sometimes I like to top my mashed potatoes with caramelized onions or shallots when I serve them at the table. You can do whatever you want.