Flavored to perfection, homemade mashed potatoes may seem like a lot of work, but a little peeling and mashing are worth the effort.
Cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. (Watch the pot: potatoes have a tendency to boil over.) While the spuds are cooking, slowly heat the milk and butter. When the potatoes are done, drain them, return to the pot, and add half the hot milk mixture. Mash the potatoes with a handheld potato masher or an electric mixer. Keep adding the hot milk until you reach the proper consistency (which, of course, varies from family to family). Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Variations: Spuds with Jewels: In a frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and briefly saute 1 diced red pepper (add hot peppers such as green jalapeno for ore). Stir in 1/2 teaspoon basil. Immediately pour on top of mashed potatoes.
Green Potatoes: Use an electric mixer to blend 1 to 2 cups chopped cooked spinach into batch of mashed potatoes until they turn green.
Red Coats: Use purple, red or new potatoes with their skins on.
The Cheddar Broccoli: Mix 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese with 1 cup chopped, steamed broccoli florets and fold into the mashed spuds.
Prague Potatoes: Fry 4 strips of bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan and add 1 diced onion, cooking until translucent. Crumble the bacon into the onion. Top mashed potatoes with bacon, onion, and drippings, using 1-1/2 teaspoons or less of fat per serving.
Golden Broil: Spread prepared mashed potatoes in an oven-to-table baking dish. Drizzle 1/2 cup heavy cream over the top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Broil until the top turns golden.
Breakfast for Dinner: Serve mashed potatoes in a large bowl topped with 3 to 4 chopped hard-boiled eggs and chopped fresh parsley and chives.
Tatties 'n' Neeps: For the Scots' way of using up leftover mashed potatoes, mix equal amounts of mashed potatoes and mashed turnips.
Colcannon: Mix mashed potatoes with 1-1/2 cups shredded, cooked, and drained cabbage or kale.
Bangers and Mash: The English serve plain mashed potatoes with broiled or pan-seared sausages ("bangers") on the side.
Fenced-in Spuds: Surround a mound of mashed potatoes with a "fence" of steamed green beans and carrot sticks.