Mashed potatoes are just not my thing. We never had them in my home growing up. If my mom thought a dinner guest might enjoy mashed potatoes, out came the box of “Hungry Man instant mashed potatoes” and she whipped up an absolutely disgusting blob of “fake” mashed potatoes. It was hard not to gag if you were brave enough to scoop up some of this bland mush. I learned quickly to avoid it at all costs, and I felt sorry for any non-suspecting guests. It was fun to watch their faces as they happily dug in, and then didn’t know what to do with this blob of something unfamiliar in their mouth. It became a family joke until we finally convinced my mom not to bother any more. Just make pasta!
In 1977, my mom and I decided it was time to break this mashed potato curse. It was my daughter’s christening, and we had planned to make all the food for the party. We would make everything the day before, and then serve it buffet style for the 20 or so family members attending. I’m sure we made a baked pasta dish, but I remember deciding that this was a perfect time to try out her friend’s recipe for baked mashed potato pie…….using real potatoes! I should have known it was a mistake when she took the recipe over the phone, with no measurements or directions. I must admit it sounded easy enough.
We peeled 10 pounds of potatoes, and cut them into cubes. We salted the water as if we were cooking pasta, and kept an eye on the boiling potatoes , testing frequently. Once they were soft and easy to mash, we shut off the water and left the potatoes in the hot water while we prepared the rest of the ingredients……set the table….fed the baby, etc. All in all, the cooked potatoes must have been resting in the hot water for over an hour.
We melted the butter, and started to mash with an electric beater. It was like glue!! It looked like we were making taffy. We honestly had no idea what we had done wrong. This was unknown territory to us. We continued fighting with the potatoes, stretching and pulling, and finally made one very large pie. We convinced ourselves that once baked, it would be delicious.
I think by now you can guess what happened. It was inedible! Everyone was very polite, and ate a bite or two. We questioned what we had done wrong, and we learned that you never leave the potatoes in the hot water after they have cooked. You must drain them immediately.
Since 1977, we have made many successful potato pies. It’s simple, delicious and can be made ahead of time. It’s a lovely change from plain mashed potatoes, and infinitely better than instant potatoes!
I hope you enjoy!
Recipe: serves 6
2 to 3 pounds of potatoes
1 stick of butter, melted plus 2 TBSP for greasing the casserole
8 ounces mozzarella
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, plus 4 tablespoons
1/4 cup (approximately) Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the potatoes in salted water. Drain immediately when soft.
- While the potatoes are boiling, heavily grease a casserole dish with the 2 TBSP butter. Then coat the buttered dish with breadcrumbs. Also slice the mozzarella and set aside.
- Add the melted butter to the drained potatoes, and mash. Add 1/4 cup of the grated cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Add half the potato mixture to the casserole. Top with some mozzarella and more grated parmigiano. Then add the remaining potatoes, mozzarella, grated parmigiano and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs.
- Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbling.
** I’ve come across a secret ingredient for my mashed potatoes. It’s totally not necessary, but truffle salt (just a little ) turns regular mashed potatoes into something special, and it also added that “extra something” to this dish as well. It’s worth a try sometime. It’s certainly a long way from that box of “Hungry Man!”