Roasted garlic’s flavor is sweet with hints of nuttiness and its texture is spreadable like butter, making it an easy addition to mashed potatoes.

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The road to prefect garlic-infused mashed potatoes is one worth taking. And there are several ways to prepare the garlic for adding to mashed potatoes. Nobody wants mediocre mashed potatoes, so flavoring and choosing the right potatoes are important.

First, think about how strong you want the garlic flavor to be.

For a strong garlic flavor, you can add fresh minced garlic to the cooked potatoes when mashing them. You can also cook whole, peeled, garlic cloves (allow 1 clove per potato) with the potatoes.

Another option is to saute minced garlic in some butter or a bit of olive oil (or both) before adding it to the cooked potatoes. Sauteing first tames the bite sometimes associated with garlic. Just be sure to watch it carefully and don’t saute the garlic over heat that is too high, or it will brown or burn and turn bitter. If this happens, toss it out and start over or that bitter flavor will permeate the potatoes.

You can also infuse the garlic flavor into the liquid you are adding to the potatoes. Since any cream, milk or broth should be warmed (more on this later) before adding it to the potatoes, add the garlic to any of these as they warm. Place the liquid and chopped garlic in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat at least 5 minutes so liquid becomes infused with the garlic. Once warm, strain the liquid to remove the garlic pieces.

My preference for mashed potatoes with garlic that provides the most flavor is to roast the garlic first. Roasting the garlic mellows its flavor and softens the texture. Roasted garlic’s flavor is sweet with hints of nuttiness and its texture is spreadable like butter, making it an easy addition to mashed potatoes. In fact, you can spread it on toast just like butter. Once you make roasted garlic, you will become addicted to it.

You’ll need to plan on a longer cooking time because it takes about 45 minutes to roast the garlic, but it’s so worth it.

Here’s how to roast it in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove as much loose papery skin as possible and cut about 1/4-inch off the pointed end of the whole garlic bulb. This may not expose all the cloves; take a paring knife to any unexposed cloves and slice off the top. Or remove the skin and break the cloves from the bulb.

Place the garlic on two layers of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Enclose the garlic in the foil (do not wrap the foil tight around the garlic) and place it in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the garlic is soft. Remove from the oven. When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze the pulp from the bulb and add it to the mashed potatoes along with any other ingredients you are using.

Before you start any mashed potato dish, it’s important to use starchy potatoes to help absorb dairy better: Russets will turn out light, fluffy, snowy-white mashed potatoes. Yukon Golds give a creamy, more pureed texture and a yellower hue. Red-skinned potatoes make for creamier mashed potatoes.

Now, about that warmed liquid. It’s best to warm the liquid before adding to the potatoes. If you add cold liquid (cream, milk, half-and-half, broth) you run the risk of the hot potatoes cooling down and not absorbing the liquid. This also makes you overwork the potatoes to get the liquid absorbed, which makes for gummy or gluey mashed potatoes.

Roasted Garlic-infused Mashed Potatoes

Serves: 8

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour (if roasting garlic)

4 pounds russets or Yukon Golds, peeled and quartered

3/4 to 1 cup warm milk

6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces, softened

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper or to taste

1 to 2 bulbs (as desired for taste) roasted garlic (see note)

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander. Return the hot potatoes to the pan and mash until smooth with a potato masher or ricer. Gradually add 3/4 cup of the milk, butter, salt and pepper while continuing to mash the potatoes until fluffy. Add the remaining milk if necessary.

Cook’s note: Here’s how to roast garlic. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, remove as much loose papery skin as possible and cut about 1/4-inch off the pointed end of the whole garlic bulb. This may not expose all the cloves; take a paring knife to any unexposed cloves and slice off the top. Or remove the skin and break the cloves from the bulb.

Place the garlic on two layers of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Enclose the garlic in the foil (do not wrap the foil tight around the garlic) and place it in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the garlic is soft. Remove from the oven. When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze the pulp from the bulb and add it to the mashed potatoes along with any other ingredients you are using. You can also add the garlic to the milk while it’s warming to infuse mashed potatoes with garlic flavor.

From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

Nutrition info: 261 calories (33 percent from fat), 10 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 41 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 405 mg sodium, 26 mg cholesterol, 47 mg calcium, 4 g fiber.

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