In Defense of Instant Mashed Potatoes
Who said instant gratification was a bad thing?
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Thanksgiving brings the promise of a delectable feast, the likes of which arrives but once a year. In our age of foodie-ism and endless recipe blogs, every family has its own take on the big meal. But there are still some universal staples.
Turkey and mashed potatoes are undoubtedly the most popular, and the latter enjoys a special kind of fanbase. It's little wonder: They're delicious enough to be a main course of their own. (And in my house they often have been.)
But not all mashed potatoes are created equal.
Cars have seen huge improvements since the Model T. Today's computers bear little resemblance to the Apple II. We live in the gosh darn future, so why are we still eating our grandmothers' mashed potatoes? Sorry, grandma, but instant spuds are simply the pinnacle of starch.
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If your mashed potatoes contain lumps, they're flawed—and I'm not talking about the kind of flaw that supposedly "humanizes" a recipe.
The instant variety of mashed potatoes is engineered for perfection. In order to produce this treat, a superior batch of mashed potatoes was created at some point, then dehydrated and turned into flakes. These flakes are then reconstituted into potato perfection with the simple addition of water.
That's right, haters: These potatoes are very real.
Instant Protip: Did you buy an off-brand package of flaked potatoes that came out too watery? The food enthusiasts at Tablespoon have a few mind-blowing suggestions. Try substituting chicken broth, milk, or both for water in the recipe. With chicken broth, you get a creamy texture packed with way more flavor, while milk will give your spuds a bit more substance.
Flavor for Days
Potatoes are not very tasty straight out of the ground. In fact, they're downright disgusting when cooked without any seasoning. In order to make these gnarly tubers palatable, you need butter, margarine, or some kind of delicious lipid. Salt, pepper, and other seasonings are also essential.
The instant variety of mashed potatoes only needs water (or chicken broth or milk) to give you an appetizing kick in the taste buds. Most brands of instant taters already have butter and other flavorings in the dehydrated flakes, so anything you add is just icing on the fabulously starchy cake.
Instant Protip: The wizards over at Culinary Arts 360 suggest frying up some bacon for your instant mashed potatoes. While always a good idea, frying pork fat serves two purposes for your taters: You can sprinkle bacon bits into your mixture and also use the bacon grease in your mash. You're not only creating taste nirvana—you're also being incredibly efficient by using every last bit of bacon. Mom would be so proud!
Less Filling = More to Eat
Potatoes are heavy (there's a reason why spud guns are so effective). These pre-op Mr. Potato Heads are also heavy in your tummy. At the Thanksgiving dinner table, this is a big no-no. The risk of filling up on mashed potatoes is too great. What if you can't finish your turkey? Your mother will be heartbroken!
Fear not, for instant mashed potatoes are lighter than their homemade counterparts. Seriously, check out the detective work that cooking website Macheesmo did. Instant taters have fewer calories, fewer carbs, and even less cholesterol than homemade. Of course, adding milk will up the calories a bit.
Instant Protip: Your dehydrated potato flakes have the uncanny ability to expand in size. Why not use their power for the betterment of mankind? Over at Wisebread, they recommend adding some instant mashed potato flakes to thicken up soups, or to add texture to meatloaf and meatballs. Instant mashed potatoes? More like Potatoes 2.0.
Also, don't forget to enjoy your instant mashed potatoes with an unhealthy amount of gravy—preferably the homemade stuff. Fake gravy is just wrong.
[Hero image: Flickr user "manuel_alarcon"]