There are two secrets to this recipe. First, the potatoes are boiled whole in their skins to prevent them from becoming waterlogged. Second, the garlic is toasted in a covered skillet to create nutty, sweet cloves hat are soft enough to work into the boiled potatoes. Russet, red or Yukon Gold potatoes can be used each turns out a different texture. Russets make fluffy, creamy mashed potatoes, while red potatoes become dense and velvety when mashed. Yukon Golds are somewhere in between, with a pleasing yellow color and buttery, sweet flavor. As for the garlic, avoid using unusually large garlic cloves, which will not soften adequately during toasting. For smooth mashed potatoes, a food mill or potato ricer fitted with the finest disk is the best choice. For chunky mashed potatoes, use a potato masher, decrease the half-and-half to 3/4 cup and mash the garlic to a paste with a fork before you add it to the potatoes.
22 small to medium-large garlic cloves (about 3 ounces, or 2/3 cup) from 2 medium heads garlic, skins left on
2 pounds potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup half-and-half, warm
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Ground black pepper
1. Toast garlic, covered, in small skillet over lowest possible heat, shaking pan frequently, until cloves are dark spotty brown and slightly softened, about 22 minutes. Off heat, let stand, covered, until fully softened, 15-20 minutes. Peel cloves and with a paring knife, cut off woody root end. Set aside.
2. While garlic is toasting, place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring them to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender (a paring knife can be slipped into and out of center of potatoes with very little resistance), 20-30 minutes. Drain.
3. Set food mill or ricer over now empty but still warm saucepan. Spear potato with dinner fork, then peel back skin with paring knife. Working in batches, cut peeled potatoes into rough chunks and drop into hopper of food mill or potato ricer along with peeled garlic. Process or rice potatoes in saucepan.
4. Stir in butter with wooden spoon until incorporated; gently whisk in half-and-half, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
From Americas Test Kitchens.