I don't think I've ever asked for or ordered a heap of mashed potatoes as a side at a restaurant. When mashed potatoes — which are the epitome of softness and nary ever have even a smidgen of crunch or texture — come into the equation, I'm not often chomping at the bit to eat them.
However, there's exactly one day of the year on which I cosplay as a tater-hound and lean into this holiday classic: Thanksgiving.
My mashed potatoes are enriched with cream and shredded cheddar cheese. They're also (obviously) laced with butter and (usually) some creamy element of sorts like mascarpone, labneh or crème fraîche. I prefer my mashed potatoes on the thicker side, decisively cementing their place as a mash versus a purée or perhaps even a thick soup.
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I aggressively season the cooking water and usually opt for Idaho or russet (but Yukons here and there are also delicious). I often throw in some whole garlic cloves alongside the spuds, and I always only use a handheld potato masher. If you're not in the mood for hand-mashing, feel free to use a food mill, mechanized hand blender or ricer. But be careful if opting for a Vitamix or food processor: Potatoes can get strangely gummy or even glue-y in these applications.
While topping your taters with some pats of butter or chopped chives is always a great move, the frenzied air on Thanksgiving sometimes doesn't allow for such frills. No matter your approach, ingredient choices or utensils, I hope your Turkey Day mashed potatoes are everything you hoped for and then some.
- 2 pounds potatoes, peeled (only for certain kinds, such as Idaho or russet) and chopped into cubes
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled
- Kosher salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup mascarpone
- 1 bunch chives, finely minced
- Add the chopped potato cubes and garlic cloves to a large, heavy pot. Fill with cold water, transfer to the stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling rapidly, season very generously with salt. (This is the first stage of seasoning your potatoes. If you don't salt them here, you'll never truly be able to season them perfectly post-cook.)
- Test for doneness after about 20 minutes, using a fork to check and see how easily it pierces the potato. Once the potatoes are fork tender or even slightly starting to fall apart, drain them in a colander. Return the drained potatoes to the pot and place on the same burner. Ensure the burner is turned off.
- Begin mashing, using a potato masher, food mill, hand blender, ricer or similar tool.
- Once the potatoes are sufficiently mashed, add the stick of butter and let the residual heat melt it. Once softened considerably, add the heavy cream and mascarpone, blending the dairy in with a wooden spoon (or your potato masher).
- When entirely smooth and everything has been melted and incorporated, taste for the final seasoning. You'll probably need a bit more salt — but be careful if you used salted butter.
- Transfer to a large, warmed bowl and top with pats of butter and minced chives.
- For the potatoes: Idaho or russet produce a very different end product than Yukons, but I'm not opposed to fingerlings, red bliss, sweet potatoes, etc. All potatoes can work for mashed potatoes, really, so always feel free to use your favorite tuber.
- Cook the potatoes judiciously and thoroughly: No matter how much elbow grease you put into it, an undercooked potato simply won't mash up perfectly, resulting in an uneven final product with little bits of slightly undercooked potato. I'd venture to say that a slightly overcooked or waterlogged potato is preferable to an undercooked tater — at least when it comes to this dish — as the structural integrity of the spud doesn't matter once it's mashed into smithereens.
- For the dairy: In addition to heavy cream and/or mascarpone, other great choices are whole milk, non-dairy milk, buttermilk, fromage blanc, half-and-half, sour cream, vegan crème fraîche and so on and so forth.
- For the butter: Because I prefer to control the sodium content myself, I aim for unsalted butter. If you prefer the "built-in" salinity of salted butter, go wild.
- I'm not a black pepper guy across the board, and I really don't like it in mashed potatoes. As always, feel free to add a heaping amount if that is your journey.
- For the herbs: Chives are the classic, but I always love some scallions. Another interesting flavor addition would be finely chopped fresh dill. Or go in a more colcannon direction, and incorporate kale or spinach for a heftier green texture and flavor.
about Turkey Day
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