I’m willing to bet that mashed potatoes are on your list of comfort foods. The rich and creamy decadence of potatoes mixed with milk and butter is hard to beat. My recipe has been fine-tuned over the years. For ease, I used to melt the butter into the hot milk before blending with the potatoes; but then I realized when I added the butter first, and completely incorporated it into the dry potatoes, the finished product had a more buttery flavor.
2 to 3 large (8 to 10 ounces each) russet potatoes
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt plus extra for seasoning
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 to 2/3 cup milk
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Peel and rinse the potatoes under cold water. Cut each into 4 or 5 large chunks and place in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan. Cover with cold water, partially cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches a boil, uncover, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and reduce heat so the water boils gently. Cook until potato chunks feel tender but not mushy when pierced with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not cook until they are soft and mushy or they will be watery and might even start to disintegrate in the water!
Meanwhile, melt the butter. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until hot but not boiling.
Drain potatoes and place back in the warm pan over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to evaporate excess water. Remove from heat and mash potatoes in the pan using a masher, ricer, food mill, or even a well-constructed wire whisk. Blend the melted butter mixture into potatoes. Stir the milk into the potatoes, a bit at a time, until they are as soft and moist as you like. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To avoid last minute chaos in the kitchen, know that it works perfectly well to cook and mash potatoes up to 1 hour in advance. They can be kept warm in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, or reheated in a microwave oven just before serving. If you use the do-ahead plan, be sure to add an extra pat of butter, or two.