Editor’s note: Cook Like a Chef is a feature designed to help you master cooking techniques that will give your homemade meals professional style and carefully crafted flavor. Each month, a chef instructor from Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College will walk us through a skill or recipe. Watch at bendbulletin.com

One of the things to feel grateful for when you sit down at the Thanksgiving table Thursday is the big bowl of fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. We’re sure you’ll have one, since they’re an indispensable part of the meal. How would you make a gravy lake without them?

But too often, fresh, homemade mashed potatoes come out lumpy, gluey or lackluster.

Have no fear — chef instructor David Trask of the Cascade Culinary Institute is here to help just in time for Thanksgiving. He’s also on The Bulletin’s website in a video, demonstrating how to make perfect mashed potatoes every time.

It’s not hard. The keys to heavenly mashed potatoes are the right potato variety, a ricer or food mill to do the mashing, and butter and heavy cream.

“You want them nice and smooth and light and fluffy. Mashed potatoes are just warm and buttery, and who doesn’t love them covered in gravy?” Trask said.

Yukon Golds

Start with a creamy, white potato. Trask recommends the Yukon Gold variety.

“You can use russets, but they’re a little starchier. Yukons are a little lighter and a nice golden color,” Trask said.

A ricer is nicer

Start the peeled and quartered potatoes in cold, salted water and turn the heat to high to bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover the pan.

After the potatoes are cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes, put them in a large bowl to cool down for a few minutes. You want them to sit, uncovered, to steam and dry off a little bit.

“You want to replace the water in the potatoes with the heavy cream and butter,” Trask said.

To mash them, Trask’s preferred tool is a ricer.

“You can use a food mill, ricer or electric mixer. I like the ricer. It gets all the lumps out and makes them nice and smooth,” he said.

Cook ahead

If you’re overwhelmed with cooking the Thanksgiving meal and would like to cook the mashed potatoes a few hours ahead, Trask suggested adding a little more cream or butter and covering them tightly with plastic wrap.

“You can microwave them when it’s time to eat or keep them in the warm oven. You just want to add a little more moisture to them — cream or butter — because as the starches open up, the potatoes thicken up,” Trask said.

Warm cream and butter

While the potatoes are cooking or cooling down, melt the butter and warm the cream together in a saucepan on the stove or in a bowl in the microwave.

“Pour the heated cream and melted butter over the mashed potatoes, and fold them together. Don’t over-beat the potatoes, or they will end up gluey,” he warned.

Lighten up

If you want to save some calories, Trask suggested that substituting Greek yogurt for the heavy cream, and using half the butter, would still result in delicious mashed potatoes.

“But Thanksgiving really isn’t for Greek yogurt and cutting back, is it? Put it all out there and enjoy,” he said with a laugh.

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