Lately, I have been experimenting with mashing a wider range of vegetables than the standard potato. And why not? The baby loves mashes, even when he’s turning his nose up at vegetables in general. For adults, they are comfort food. Everyone’s happy.
What is the difference between a mash and a puree? Generally, purees are smoother, more like baby food consistency, and in our house at least, we don’t like to eat them as side dishes. I prefer to use a puree as part of another dish, such as a soup or dip. I mostly puree in the food processor so I can choose from a wider range of vegetables (such as broccoli, mushrooms and eggplant, to name a few), although I will occasionally use a finer sieve in the food mill to puree.
I always serve mashes on their own as sides. I like to leave mashes a little chunkier than purees and to enrich them with butter and cream, milk, buttermilk or sour cream — whatever I have on hand. If I am serving the mash right away, I use a potato masher to make quick work of mashing the vegetable and mixing in the additions. If I am planning to serve the mash later, I’ll use the food mill with its coarsest sieve instead, and I’ll mix in the butter and dairy when I’m reheating.
For mashed potatoes, choose the russet, white or Yukon Gold varieties. These varieties have more starch and are better suited to mashing, although I will mash large red potatoes, if that’s what I have. Other vegetables that mash well are carrots, celeriac, parsnips, peas, sweet potatoes, turnips and winter squash.
A new vegetable often benefits from being mashed with potatoes so it’s not entirely unfamiliar. Mashed potatoes and celeriac (or celery root), for instance, has a wonderful nutty flavor. The baby likes mashed vegetables like turnips and winter squash mixed with cooked apples — not a favorite of mine, but if he’ll eat it, I’ll go for it. I like to experiment with strong flavor additions to enliven a mash. Salsa, pesto or herb purees, roasted garlic and cheese are all great additions to try.
Here is the basic technique:
- Select the vegetables you want to mash and pre-cook them. Most vegetables can be peeled, cut into chunks and boiled until tender. You might choose to bake starchier vegetables, such as russet potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
- If you are serving the mash immediately, transfer to a large bowl. Add ½ tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. cream, milk, buttermilk or sour cream per serving (just eyeball it). Salt and pepper to taste.
- Using a potato masher, mash until the vegetables are the desired consistency, the butter has melted and the cream is incorporated. Mix in any other flavorings with a rubber spatula.
If you are not serving the mash right away, omit the butter and dairy. Use a potato masher or food mill to mash the vegetables, and either freeze or store in the refrigerator. Before serving, add the butter and dairy. Reheat over low until heated through, stirring frequently.
Mashed vegetables, including potatoes, can be frozen. Usually, I freeze them without the butter and dairy, which I add when reheating. To freeze as individual servings, scoop the mash into muffin tins. Once frozen, store in ziploc freezer bags, and just remove the number of servings you need.