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VOL. 35 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 4, 2011

Do you need a ricer for making mashed potatoes?

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I’ve got a gadget (lots of them really – my mom calls me the gadget queen) called a potato ricer. I don’t know how many of you have one of these or have ever used one. So for the benefit of those who have never heard of it, let me explain.

A potato ricer is a kitchen tool used to make mashed potatoes or fruit by forcing the food through small holes, which are often not much wider than a grain of rice. Potato ricers incorporate air into your boiled potatoes, making them light, fluffy and lump free. A potato ricer can also be used to squeeze excess water from sliced or grated potatoes. This is useful for making crispy chips and hash browns.

There are at least three kinds of potato ricers.

The simplest variety is little more than a grid on a handle. Food is pressed against a flat surface inside a hopper.

More elaborate models resemble a very large garlic press. This is the type I have.

A rotary type, called a food mill, where the food is driven toward the grid by a large screw, is similar to a meat grinder but without the rotary blade. I have had this kind before; however, I found it cumbersome and difficult to clean. I just stick my handheld potato ricer in the dishwasher and it cleans easily.

The type I own has white cast iron handles and a stainless steel ricer hopper. I found the “Deluxe Angled Potato Ricer” at Williams-Sonoma ($32). It holds about 2-3/4 boiled and quartered potatoes at one time. It also has a hook on the side, which makes it easy to place on top of the bowl and just press, leaving one hand free.

I guess using this gadget could be a matter of opinion, but I love mine. I don’t have to lug out the handheld mixer, or other equipment. Like I said earlier, I just pop it into the dishwasher when I am done. It makes garlic mashed potatoes a breeze because you can pop the garlic heads into the boiling water with the potatoes themselves, then mash them all up together.

As for blending in the milk and butter, I have found that placing a cup of milk with the desired amount of butter in the microwave to get hot, then stirring that into the potatoes with a fork is so simple. You won’t believe how fluffy and light your potatoes end up: no lumpy or gooey potatoes because of accidently overbeating them. You’ll just have a smooth and yummy bowl of fluffy potatoes.

I love sweet potato casserole, and usually that is the “dish” I am requested to bring during the holidays. However, sweet potato casserole is sort of like green bean casserole – it is good anytime, not just as a holiday special. The recipe below is one that I often use. It is always such a big hit with the family. Also, it is a special dish to take to a friend in need. The leftovers warm up very nicely.

Other than mashed potatoes, potato ricers are used in the making of lefse (a Norwegian staple) and spätzle (German noodles), as well as for making homemade gnocchi (a type of Italian pasta).

Sweet Potato Casserole

For Top Crust:

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped pecans

1/3 stick melted butter

For Filling:

3 cups cooked, riced, sweet potatoes

1/3 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs, well beaten

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter

To make the crust: Combine the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Make the potato filling: Thoroughly combine the ingredients in the order listed above. Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the crust mixture. Bake in the oven about 30 minutes. Remove and let set 20 to 30 minutes.

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