Mother’s Smashers

Servings 8 -10 servings
One of my responsibilities while working at Le Cirque to was to make the purée de pommes de terre, or mashed potatoes. After the potatoes were peeled, cooked, drained and dried (you’ll read about that in my recipe, below), I had to use a rubber spatula to push them through a tamie (a screen framed with wood that sits over a mixing bowl). This was an arduous task. Although the potatoes turned out silky smooth and delicious, I vowed to serve lumpy yet equally delicious “smashers” at my own restaurant. After all, whose mother didn’t serve lumpy potatoes?  I chose to leave the skin on not only because I like the added flavor; I didn’t want to have to peel 25 pounds of potatoes every night, either!            
You can add all sorts of things to smashers (see sidebar), but these potatoes are so good, they really don’t need other flavorings.  Why tamper with perfection? 
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mothers smashers


  • 8 whole large red potatoes about 3 pounds
  • 1 ½ cups half-and-half, plus more if necessary The amount of the half and half needed depends on the potatoes, so you are going to have to use your best judgment on how much to add.  Mother’s smashers should be very creamy and look very “wet.”  They should not be stiff.  They should fall off a tilted spoon, not stick to the spoon or fall in a big blob on the plate. Ideally, you should serve the smashers right away, since they tighten up as they sit (even for just a few minutes) and become a little less wonderful. If making them a little ahead of time, make sure they are even creamier, cover them very well with plastic wrap and then a layer of aluminum foil, and keep them warm by placing them in a preheated 200°F until ready to serve.
  • 1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature 2 ½ sticks
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Scrub the potatoes clean with a vegetable brush under cold running water.
  • Place the whole potatoes in a large (8- to 10-quart) stockpot or Dutch oven and cover with cold water by about 1 inch
    LOVE NOTE:Starting potatoes in cold water helps them cook more evenly because the whole potato has a chance to warm up as the water warms. If you drop potatoes into boiling water, the outsides will cook much faster than the insides. Don’t be tempted to use hot tap water to speed up the process. No matter how old or new your plumbing is, most systems contain lead at some level, and hot water can leach the lead out of the pipes and into your cooking pot where it doesn’t boil away.
    Place pot over high heat and bring to a boil (put the lid on the pot to make the water go faster -- just make sure you remove it when the water begins to boil or it could boil over). Lower the heat and simmer uncovered until the potatoes are fork-tender (a fork should be able to slide in and out very easily), about 30 minutes (better to slightly overcook than slightly undercook).
  • When the potatoes are tender, drain in a colander set in the sink. Pour the potatoes out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 8 minutes (to dry out excess moisture), but do not allow them to brown
    LOVE NOTE: Strange as it may seem, the dryer the potatoes, the creamier your smashers will be.  That’s because the less water they soak up, the more half and half and butter they can absorb, making them extra rich and creamy. That’s why the potatoes are cooked whole, so they absorb less water, and why I like to pop them in the oven to dry out the excess moisture.
  • While the potatoes are drying out, place the butter in a warm spot to soften and the half-and-half in a small saucepan over low heat (adding warm cream to the potatoes will help keep them piping hot).
  • Return potatoes to the cooking pot (pour them into the pot or use tongs—they’re hot!) and smash them with a heavy duty wire whisk or a potato masher (don’t worry if they’re lumpy – that’s what makes them smashers.) Add the butter and warm half-and-half. Add additional half-and-half, if necessary, to achieve a creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper.


Sidebar: Leftovers

Leftover smashers are actually quite versatile. You can reheat them on the stove with some half-and-half and butter to smooth them out. They won’t be as creamy as fresh-made potatoes, but add one of the variations listed below and you’ll hardly notice. You can also use them to top a casserole, like pot pies or shepherd’s pies. Or make croquettes: mix them with a little flour and egg (1 egg and 1 tablespoon of flour per 2 cups of mash), add your favorite seasonings like shredded cheese or herbs, and shape into patties. You can pan-fry the croquettes in oil over high heat, or first dip them in a dish of beaten egg and then a dish of bread crumbs to create a crispier coating. A fantastic way to use up these potatoes is in a stuffed potato soup:  For every cup of smashed potatoes add ½ cup milk, 2 tablespoons bacon, ¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese.  Top with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives or green onions.

Sidebar: Smashed Potato Variations

While I strongly recommend serving these potatoes “plain,” you can add all sorts of things for more excitement. After adding the butter and half and half, stir in one or a combination of the following: roasted garlic, cheddar cheese and green onions, horseradish, blue cheese or bacon.  Add these items while the potatoes are still in the mixing bowl and mix in with a rubber spatula or whisk.
Roasted Garlic
Roast garlic according to instructions on page xxx (Love Note 1, Roasted Garlic, Prosciutto and Provolone Macaroni and Cheese). Use 1 tablespoon roasted garlic per cup of smashers.
Cheddar Cheese and Green Onion
Add 1 tablespoon grated sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese and 1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions (both the white and green parts) for every cup of smashers. This version is wonderful with fried chicken.
For every cup of smashers, add 1 tablespoon diced cooked bacon. Or dice 1 slice of bacon per cup of smashers and cook over medium-high heat until crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add alone or with 1 tablespoon crumbled blue cheese.
Use 1 tablespoon freshly grated horseradish or 1 tablespoon prepared white horseradish to every cup of smashers. This is perfect with steaks and roast beef.