Nothing quite hits the spot for me when it comes to comfort food like creamy mashed potatoes. There are tons of tasty mashed potato recipes, different ways to mash your spuds, and various aromatics like bay leaves or a bundle of fresh herbs you can throw into the pot when boiling the potatoes. But my favorite trick for the absolute creamiest mashed potatoes is to add a bit of half-and-half to the cooking liquid when boiling the potatoes.
My journey to this discovery started a few years ago when I was developing a mashed potato recipe. In the quest for the ultimate amount of creaminess in the finished product, I decided to boil the potatoes in a combination of half water and half milk. I was more than happy with the results and this was my go-to for many years.
However, earlier this year, I had a mashed potato epiphany — or, really, an accidental discovery — while developing Kitchn’s new recipe for Irish champ, the buttery, creamy potato dish made by mashing potatoes with scallions. I had planned to use my typical 50:50 ratio of water and milk to boil the potatoes, but I didn’t buy enough milk and I was a little too strapped for time to go shopping again.
I quickly pondered to find a solution, and decided to throw a quarter-cup of heavy cream into the boiling water and hoped for the best! They say everything happens for a reason, and not only did it save me a trip to the store, but it actually made a slight improvement in both the cooking process and the mashed potatoes.
For starters, when the mixture came to a boil, it didn’t froth up as much as milk tends to — and less frothing means a lower risk of the mixture boiling over if you don’t keep an eye on it. I also believe the heavy cream penetrated the potatoes with a touch more creaminess than milk did: Once the potatoes were mashed with warm milk, melted butter, and a final dash of cream, it created the creamiest, most flavorful mashed potatoes I’ve ever made.
This discovery caused by my foolish shopping error soon became my go-to method for any mashed potato dish. I incorporated this trick when I developed my recipes for traditional British beef cottage pie and turkey and ham cottage pie, and you could really use it for any mashed potato recipe. When it comes to making mashed potatoes, I’m sticking to cream and never looking back!