A basic recipe for mashed potatoes calls for peeled potatoes, salt, butter and milk. It is possible to change the flavor and texture of the potatoes by leaving the skins intact, experimenting with different types of cheese or using recipes that call for bacon, herbs or other flavorful ingredients.
For basic mashed potatoes, salt a gallon of water and boil over high heat. Cook 2 1/2 pounds of peeled, cubed Yukon gold or russet potatoes in the boiling water for approximately 45 minutes. Make a butter mixture by heating four tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup whole milk in the microwave until the mixture produces steam and the butter melts. Drain the potatoes, put them back in the pot and use a ricer or masher to mash them to a smooth consistency. To make fluffy potatoes, mix in half the hot butter mixture and blend slightly. For creamy potatoes, keep stirring until the mixture thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To make fancy mashed potatoes, peel and cube 10 medium potatoes, mince two cloves of garlic, chop four green onions and cube an 8-ounce package of cream cheese. Place the garlic and potatoes in a saucepan full of water. Bring the water to a boil; then reduce the heat, cover the saucepan and cook for approximately 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash them until they reach the desired consistency. Add one cup sour cream, green onions, cream cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Beat well, and then transfer the mixture to a greased 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Toss 1/2 cup melted butter with 45 crushed butter-flavored crackers. Top the potatoes with the cracker mixture, and bake uncovered at 350 F for 30 to 35 minutes.