I have boiled many a potato over the years. This was often on the way to mashed potatoes and if I may say so people usually liked my mashed potatoes. I learned a while back that making sure the water was well salted led to good results and a heavy hand with the butter and/or cream/buttermilk finished off the job. In other words, I though I had mashed potatoes down.
Enter the sachet.
I think I first read about cooking potatoes with sachets in the Ad Hoc cookbook though it is not for mashed potatoes. It turns out that if you drop a sachet (some cheesecloth packed with flavorful ingredients) into the water along with the salt and potatoes you will be surprised at the results. I typically put some garlic, thyme, bay, peppercorns, and parsley (if it’s handy) into mine. Since you know what you put in you can taste a hint of thyme, garlic, and bay but for the most part it just comes across as another layer of flavor and nuance which is hard to place but delicious to eat. Give it a try the next time you are cooking up mashed potatoes!
Oh, and if you haven’t tried buttermilk in your mashed potatoes you should definitely try that as well!