The farm-field aroma of smoking hay imbues simple mashed potatoes with a pastoral flavor. The potatoes are robustly, but not overwhelmingly, flavored with the hay smoke. For a lighter smoke taste, substitute tap water for the potato-cooking water.
You will need 6 cups of alfalfa and 2 cups of timothy hay, both of which are available at local garden centers and pet shops. If you are worried about how the smoking hay might affect the interior of your pot, line the pot with aluminum foil.
Remember, you are smoking inside the house. Smoke might permeate your kitchen and parts of your home for a day or two. It will dissipate, but to reduce the smell, keep the lid on the pot throughout the cooking and for at least 30 minutes after cooking (The more you open the lid, the more smoke you release.) In addition, use your stove’s exhaust fan, and maybe open a window.
Make Ahead: You can smoke the potatoes a day in advance and refrigerate until you’re ready to boil them.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 2 pounds unpeeled Yukon Gold or russet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup whole milk, half-and-half or heavy cream
- 1/3 cup cooking water from the potatoes (may substitute tap water)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, or more as needed
Place the alfafa and timothy hay in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the hay, then arrange the potatoes on the foil. Cover with the pot lid and cook the potatoes over high heat until you smell a deep fragrance of hay smoking, about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low. Smoke the potatoes for 1 hour.
Turn off the heat; transfer the potatoes to a plate to cool. Discard the hay.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them, then cut them into quarters. (If you’re using Yukon Gold potatoes, peeling is optional.) Add the potatoes and the teaspoon of table salt to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to medium; cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the cooking water.
Return the empty pot to the stove over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook, tossing, for 1 to 2 minutes or until all of their moisture has evaporated. Use a potato ricer to shred the potatoes, letting them fall into a serving bowl, or transfer them to a serving bowl and mash with a potato masher.
Combine the butter, dairy of your choice (whole milk, half-and-half or heavy cream) and the reserved potato cooking water in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once the butter has melted, pour the mixture over the potatoes in the bowl. Use a whisk or wooden spoon to stir until smooth. Season with the sea salt and white pepper; serve immediately.
From Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.
Tested by Jim Shahin.
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