The Refreshing Ingredient Ina Garten Adds To Puréed Potatoes

A classic, time-tested side dish for a reason, mashed potatoes are simple to make, require just a few ingredients, are absolutely delicious, go well with so many main dishes, and are super easy to customize with all manner of flavorings. A favorite dish for many of us since we were small children, mashed potatoes typically feature starchy potatoes that are cubed, simmered in water until tender, then mashed with salt, butter, and milk or cream. But what's great about the dish is that it can be "mashed" in a variety of ways, from passing the potatoes through a ricer to beating them in a stand mixer to, of course, using your trusty old hand-held potato masher.

If you're Ina Garten, though, you "purée" your potatoes — because the Barefoot Contessa is très chic and cooking techniques with French names just sound fancier. But in the case of her puréed potatoes, Garten also adds an everyday ingredient that brings an additional touch of elegance and refinement to the dish — and you probably have the flavoring in your kitchen right now.

Lemon zest brings brightness and freshness to mashed potatoes

Of all the things to love about mashed potatoes, perhaps one of the most delightful aspects of the dish is its adaptability. We've all been known to jazz up mashers with our favorite ingredients, from warming nutmeg to tangy French onion dip to crumbled bacon to grated cheese. But beloved television personality and hostessing doyenne Ina Garten opts for the sophisticated touch of a bit of freshly grated lemon zest, which brings brightness and freshness to her puréed potatoes.

Garten suggests adding a full tablespoon of zest to 2.5 pounds of hot Yukon Gold potatoes, which have been puréed using a food mill and whisked with butter and hot milk. Along with the salt, the zest is added at the last minute — Garten's recipe notes that lemon gets bitter as it sits, so it's best to serve the potatoes the same day they're made. The dish can be made a few hours in advance with everything but the zest: Reheat the potatoes over a double boiler and adding the lemon zest right before serving.