The Secret Ingredient for Perfect Mashed Potatoes!

In high school I worked in the kitchen at an Italian restaurant. We mostly sold pizza, but we also had a solid selection of pasta dishes on the menu. What does this have to do with mashed potatoes? Kind of everything. What I learned while working in the kitchen is that certain food items are considered culinary gold. That the oysters on the back of the chicken, for example, are by far the tastiest thing on the bird. That mustard can literally be used for everything. Also, that the rind of Parmesan cheese should NEVER be thrown away. 

Don’t Toss the Parmesan Rind!

I remember staring down into a pot of simmering sauce one day, watching a little rind of Parmesan bobbing around and wondering, “What’s that doing in there?” The head chef saw me peeking over his pot, and not so kindly asked, “What the heck are you doing?” It was clear he didn’t appreciate my proximity to his pot of sauce. When I asked my question he rolled his eyes and begrudgingly informed me that the rind was the secret to his marinara sauce. I was shocked. No way that piece of inedible food was his secret! Was he serious? 

The Parmesan Rind Is Culinary Gold

He must have known that I wasn’t going to leave without further explanation, so he went on to tell me how the rind of Parmesan is almost as delicious and useful as the cheese itself. That it is, in fact, one hundred percent edible. How the flavor it contributed was subtle, adding a touch of salt and earthiness as it sat and simmered in his sauce. I found it all fascinating and clearly made a mental note. 

Mashed Potatoes Made Right

Flash forward to culinary school. One day, during my “Regional Cuisines of the United States” class, we were making mashed potatoes. The instructor advised us to follow the recipe in our textbook. My 25-year-old brain registered that comment as more of a suggestion than instruction, so I decided to make a quick trip to the walk-in refrigerator. I was on the hunt for a Parmesan rind. I found one and plopped it right in my warm pot full of milk and melted butter. I let it simmer there for about 20 minutes, which coincidentally was about the same amount of time my potatoes needed to cook. After mashing my potatoes, I removed the rind from my pot and poured in my milk mixture. It was delicious. Luckily, my instructor thought so, too. 

How to Make Mashed Potatoes with a Parmesan Rind

It’s easy to replicate this method at home and here’s how, in three easy steps:

  1. Cook your potatoes as you normally would (use this popular recipe as a guide).
  2. While your potatoes are cooking, add the milk, butter, and Parmesan rind to a small saucepan. Set the pan over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer, adjusting the heat as needed to keep it simmering. Cook for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Mash your potatoes. Remove and discard the rind, then add milk mixture to the potatoes a little bit at a time. Season with salt and pepper.

Extra Tips for Making Mashed Potatoes with a Parmesan Rind

Use these extra tips to make this amazing mashed potato hack even easier (and more delicious): 

  • How big (or little) your Parmesan rind is doesn’t matter! Any size rind will work. Of course a bigger rind will yield bigger flavor. For more subtle flavor, a smaller rind might be all you need.
  • Time in the pot does matter: Try to go for at least 20 to 25 minutes, but consider adding another 20 minutes or so if time allows. The longer that rind sits in there, the more flavor you’ll get out of it.
  • It’s easy to store a Parmesan rind until you need it. The best place is in a resealable freezer bag in the freezer. It’ll last that way for up to 1 year, so don’t forget to label and date it.