I've read the argument in several articles and recipes (I don't have the references in front of me right now) that peeling potatoes before boiling them increases the amount of water they absorb, which in turn hurts their flavor and/or texture. Is this true?
Cook's Illustrated "New Best Recipe" Book in their dissertation on making Mashed Potatoes used several methods: peel & dice, peel & whole, etc.. and the 'best and most consistent' results achieved was by boiling them whole then shocking them to cool (put in an ice bath) and then peeling by hand (grip in two hands and twist).
Having used this technique for several years I will say you have received good information. Less water, but still soft and fluffy...and most importantly 'tasty' (IMHO).
Ok, so it's a couple of days later and I finally have a moment to catch up to this. From Cook's Illustrated "New Best Recipe" Book pp.186-8
We started by peeling and cutting some potatoes into chunks...while cooking others unpeeled and whole...even when mashed with identical amounts of butter and half-and-half...and salt...The potatoes that had been peeled and cut made mashed potatoes that were thin in taste and texture and devoid of potato flavor. Peeling and cutting before simmering increases the surface area...through which they lose soluble substances such as starch, proteins, and flavor compounds , to the cooking water. The greater surface area also enables lots of water molecules to bind with the potatoes' starch molecules . Combine these two effects and you've got bland, thin, watery mashed potatoes. The potatoes cooked whole and peeled after cooking yielded mashed potatoes that were rich , earthy, and sweet.
(note: If you can pickup a copy of this book, it is a treasure trove of useful kitchen information)
In short it isn't just water absorption (water into the potatoes) that makes them weak, but also what the water removes from the potatoes into the water (and then down the drain) which will produce disappointing results.
Peeling the potatoes and then boiling will make them absorb more water and lose starch. This will make the potatoes taste bland because the starch holds flavor. The same happens, for example, when rinsing pasta after it is cooked. It is not recommended because the pasta loses all the taste and texture.